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UCLA's Royce Hall in the pre-pandemic era

The University of California is drastically relaxing its fall 2021 admissions standards for applicants who are currently high school juniors, including suspending the requirement that they take standardized tests and allowing pass/fail grades for this spring’s classes affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a university announcement Wednesday.

The dramatic action came in response to the cancellation of testing by the SAT and ACT this spring due to the widespread disruption at high schools in California and nationwide during the health crisis. However, UC officials emphasized that the dropping of standardized tests for this upcoming year does not imply a permanent change and said the UC, which has nine undergraduate campuses, will continue to debate that contentious matter in the future.

The one-year change about testing “is intended to reassure students and families who have to make decisions in the coming weeks about fall 2021 applications, and is consistent with actions taken by other colleges and universities. It is intended as an accommodation and not a permanent policy shift, and does not foreclose future (UC Regents) Board policy actions with respect to the use of standardized tests in University admissions for fall 2022 applicants and beyond,” a university policy statement approved by the UC regents said.

Critics of standardized testing hope the steps could be a trial run for a more permanent end to the use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions. The UC regents were expected in May to vote on whether to keep the tests as requirements, drop them or possibly reduce their weight in admissions decisions.

Students applying for fall 2021 can still take tests and send scores to UC if they are able. Doing so can support their UC eligibility and help fulfill some university graduation requirements. But campuses must ensure that “no student is harmed in admissions selection should they not submit a test score,” according to the UC statement.

The 23-campus California State University system is reviewing whether to follow UC and drop its own testing requirement for 2021 admissions. “A final decision on how CSU will adapt its admissions process” is expected in the near future, according to a CSU statement Wednesday.

Given the chaos surrounding online education in high schools, both UC and CSU will not require a letter grade for the mandatory so-called A-G courses taken in high school this year in winter, spring or summer. That affects current high school seniors as well. Seniors already have received their acceptance or rejection letters from UC and CSU campuses but in normal years acceptances can be revoked in the summer if students’ grades significantly drop in the spring.

“We want to help alleviate the tremendous disruption and anxiety that is already overwhelming prospective students due to COVID-19,” said John A. Pérez, chair of the Board of Regents, the governing board for UC. “By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors — including suspending the use of the SAT — for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students.” The regents’ action was authorized under special procedures allowed for emergencies between regular meetings.

The A-G courses are the set of 15 year-long high school classes that applicants have to complete with at least a 2.0 or C grade in each to even be eligible for the UC and California State University systems. In normal years, California residents must earn at least a 3.0 grade point average across those classes to be considered. Then students’ academic records must put them in the top 9 percent of students statewide or in their own high school.

However, that does not guarantee them a spot at the most competitive UC campuses, such as UCLA or Berkeley, but will get them a place somewhere in the system. In some cases, they might be offered UC Merced, the youngest UC campus, even if they did not originally apply there.

A faculty report released in February said UC should continue to require that applicants for undergraduate admission take standardized college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT. That report says that standardized exams remain good predictors of students’ success at UC at a time when grade inflation in high schools makes it harder to choose potential university freshmen. In fact, the report insists that test results actually help identify many talented Latino, black and low-income students who otherwise might be rejected because their high school grades alone were not high enough.

But opponents say they will continue fighting the testing mandate both in court and at the UC Board of Regents. And they appear to have won at least temporarily due to the coronavirus. Critics say that the exams are biased against Latino and black applicants and hurt their admissions chances at UC’s nine undergraduate campuses, in part because they may not have access to expensive test-preparation coaching. Civil rights and education advocacy organizations filed a lawsuit against UC in late 2019 in Alameda County Superior Court, seeking an end to the testing mandate.

Audrey Dow, senior vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, an advocacy and policy group that seeks a permanent end to testing requirements, praised UC’s  moves for 2021. “The decision to go test-optional for the Fall 2020 application cycle positions the UC as a national leader in protecting college opportunity. The UC is moving with rightful urgency to meet the moment and to ensure no student is denied their rightful seat because of limited testing opportunities, instruction or guidance resulting from the COVID-19 crisis,” she said in an email.

The CSU joined UC in accepting grades of “credit” or “pass” as fulfilling “A-G” requirements for high school courses completed during winter, spring or summer 2020 terms. But CSU officials warned that all previous coursework must be graded and a grade of C- or better must be earned for the course to satisfy that system’s requirements.

The UC deadline to accept an offer of admission and send a deposit for enrollment will remain May 1 for freshmen and June 1 for transfers. But now students who need additional time, or who need a deferment of a deposit, will be allowed to seek a delay and UC campuses will be expected to offer flexibility, under the new policy. Eight of CSU’s 23 campuses have extended those deposit deadlines from May 1 to June 1 so far.

Transfer students received some other relief in the UC and CSU announcements. UC will temporarily suspend the cap on the number of transferable units with Pass/No Pass grading applied to their community college courses. CSU will allow transfer students to submit Pass/Fail grades in the required community college courses in English, math and other general education requirements taken this winter and spring. Transfer students do not have to submit standardized test scores at either university system.

UC and CSU application numbers are enormous.

UC received 172,099 freshmen applicants for fall 2020. Each of those applicants likely applied to several UC campuses. However, with demographic changes, the numbers have been declining somewhat — a 5.4 percent dip since 2018, according to UC statistics.

CSU says it has not finished compiling its 2020 application numbers. In 2019, the CSU system received applications from 363,478 students, a 2.3 percent decline from the year before.

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  1. kyun y lee 4 months ago4 months ago

    The whole reason they really got rid of the SAT is to decrease the number of Asian students and increase Hispanic/Black students. It has nothing to do with academics, just race politics.

  2. Vanessa 6 months ago6 months ago

    To those who really “need” the SAT to boost their college application, I applaud you for spending a ton of money on SAT tutors and taking valuable time out of your week to study for this test. You should however spent all that time and energy to maybe studying for actual school and getting good grades instead of relying on the SAT:). Being a good student is very important and maybe focusing on that will do you better.

  3. Karina T 7 months ago7 months ago

    As stated by another commenter, what about the students who need the SAT/ACT score to offset their not to great grades. There are students who are exceptionally smart and score very well on standardized testing. How would a UC decide between two students who have very similar school stats (GPA, school involvement, etc), I know the essays are supposed to help with that as well, but I am guessing a lot of students will provide … Read More

    As stated by another commenter, what about the students who need the SAT/ACT score to offset their not to great grades. There are students who are exceptionally smart and score very well on standardized testing. How would a UC decide between two students who have very similar school stats (GPA, school involvement, etc), I know the essays are supposed to help with that as well, but I am guessing a lot of students will provide a sob story about their circumstances due to COVID-19. How will the admissions representatives deem which essays are “better.”

  4. AK 7 months ago7 months ago

    Even though they state students will not be harmed by not submitting SAT/ACT scores I’m sure they will take someone with 1500+ SAT over someone who didn’t submit the score. They need to completely waive it and not accept it if they want to help the students. I have a Junior who hasn’t been able to take it due to March and May canceled tests! Making it optional puts many kids at a disadvantage and this is wrong.

    Replies

    • PJ 7 months ago7 months ago

      I see your point that making the SAT/ ACT optional might infuriate you and others at your position. However if you propose that waiving the test is a better option then it will definitely give a serious disadvantage to students who perform better in standardized tests rather than school stats. It is also unfair to students that have studied so long and sacrificed so much to get a good score. I am a junior in … Read More

      I see your point that making the SAT/ ACT optional might infuriate you and others at your position. However if you propose that waiving the test is a better option then it will definitely give a serious disadvantage to students who perform better in standardized tests rather than school stats. It is also unfair to students that have studied so long and sacrificed so much to get a good score.

      I am a junior in high school that doesn’t have very good school stats (4.2 weighted gpa) but I have a solid SAT score (1490). I have worked so hard to get this high score and I cannot bear the thought of all this going to dust. Also will College board and ACT board pay back to millions of test takers who have already taken this test? I apologize if this comment seemed to directed to you I am simply concerned with this topic which is relevant to me.

  5. Lisa Hermanson 7 months ago7 months ago

    I’ve been walking my juniors off the ledge (and their parents) because our campus closed before the March SAT. Waiting for CSU ….

  6. NY THIN BLUE LINE 7 months ago7 months ago

    People- We are in a pandemic here in NY. Food on the table and a roof over head are the first priority. People have lost their jobs and retirement funds have crashed; most important people are losing their lives!!! Many families do not have the money to sign their kids up for these tests during this time. Honestly I’m sure most people have thrown college prep in the back seat. Thank you, state of California, for a … Read More

    People- We are in a pandemic here in NY. Food on the table and a roof over head are the first priority. People have lost their jobs and retirement funds have crashed; most important people are losing their lives!!!

    Many families do not have the money to sign their kids up for these tests during this time. Honestly I’m sure most people have thrown college prep in the back seat.

    Thank you, state of California, for a leadership position and taking added stress off the table for these young people thinking about college. The world has changed overnight!! We are all in this together!

  7. Bo Loney 7 months ago7 months ago

    Maybe they should just go full steam high tech online and open up education for all. That would be really cool.

  8. Bo Loney 7 months ago7 months ago

    UC can also fairly evaluate entrance through student’s earlier PSAT and SAT scores as well as CAASPP state test scores and AP Scores that have been really hard worked for.

  9. Linda 7 months ago7 months ago

    This is so unfair! What about students who did much better as a junior rather than sophomore year? What about students who actually needed the SAT score to help boost their acceptance? What about students who took SAT and or ACT in late 2019 during fall of their junior year?

    Replies

    • Dante 7 months ago7 months ago

      I need the SAT to boost my application and this is just messing up all my plans, might have to go to community college now instead of a 4 year

      • JI 7 months ago7 months ago

        This is very similar to my case

  10. Emily 7 months ago7 months ago

    Is this an april fools joke?

  11. d 7 months ago7 months ago

    This is unfair- kids who can’t take the tests and cannot submit will lose out to kids who took it early!

    Replies

    • Alexandra 7 months ago7 months ago

      No need to worry! The article states, “But campuses must ensure that ‘no student is harmed in admissions selection should they not submit a test score,’ according to the UC statement.”

    • C 7 months ago7 months ago

      d, did you read the article? SAT scores are not being required for 2021 applicants. They are being waived – they will not need to submitted and it specifically says … campuses must ensure that “no student is harmed in admissions selection should they not submit a test score,” according to the UC statement.

    • Bo Loney 7 months ago7 months ago

      UC can look to CAASPP and AP scores as well IMHO.

  12. Aminia Burnett-Wagner 7 months ago7 months ago

    I’m not phased by this at all

  13. Ed Siebel 7 months ago7 months ago

    I wanted to make sure that this policy isn’t someone’s April Fool joke.

  14. Rebecca Harper 7 months ago7 months ago

    WOW. Great to see the UC system be the first to implement. All other institutions need to follow.

    Replies