Entrance exam scores will not longer be part of the university’s admissions process.
The University of California, Berkeley, has announced that it will no longer consider SAT and ACT scores for student admissions or scholarships. The decision will apply to its system of ten schools and corresponds with a lawsuit settlement reached with students. Those of color and those with disabilities have argued that standardized testing puts them at a disadvantage.
“Today’s settlement ensures that the university will not revert to its planned use of the SAT and ACT, which its own regents have admitted are racist metrics,” said Amanda Mangaser Savage, an attorney representing the students.
The settlement resolves a 2019 lawsuit contending college entrance tests are “biased against poor and mainly Black and Hispanic students,” according to court documents, and “by basing admissions decisions on those tests, the system illegally discriminates against applicants on the basis of their race, wealth and disability.”
The University of California is the largest school system to announced it will no longer use the tests, and it will waive score requirement in determining admission for students applying for entry between fall 2021 and spring 2025. The admissions office will not review ACT or SAT test scores submitted voluntarily, either.
The plaintiffs argued even a “voluntary submission of scores would be harmful, particularly for students with disabilities who were largely unable to take the tests with necessary accommodations during the coronavirus pandemic.” An Alameda County Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction in the matter.
The University of California complied with the court’s initial ruling but filed an appeal. At the time, the university considered a settlement “that would provide certainty for students and their families, counselors, and high schools,” according to a statement submitted.
“Real inequities exist in American education, and they are reflected in every measure of academic achievement, including the SAT,” the College Board’s executive director for communications, Zach Goldberg, said. “The SAT itself is not a racist instrument. Every question is rigorously reviewed for evidence of bias and any question that could favor one group over another is discarded.”
The final settlement includes a provision such that if the university chooses a new exam for entrance in the future, it “will consider access for students with disabilities in the design and implementation of any such exam.” The Board said it favored test-optional policies, such as the one that the California system and others had previously put in place. “As we emerge from the pandemic, the SAT will remain one of the most accessible and affordable ways for students to distinguish themselves,” it said. “Preserving a student’s choice to submit scores is important.”
Due partially to the closure of the case, the University of California, Los Angeles, freshman applications rose by 28 percent, increasing by 48 percent for African Americans, by 33 percent for Hispanic students, and by 16 percent for American Indian students. “The makeup of this year’s applicants already show that students are no longer deterred from applying based on their inability to access standardized testing,” explained Marci Lerner Miller, one of the attorneys representing the students. “We’re confident that this settlement will lead to students demonstrating their abilities, rather than their disabilities, in the application process.”