ACT, SAT Scores Banned in Admissions Process for University of California, Judge Rules

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The University of California system can no longer consider ACT and SAT tests in admissions or scholarship decisions, a judge ruled Monday, saying the testing disadvantages applicants with disabilities. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman issued the preliminary injunction on Monday, acknowledging arguments that students with disabilities would have difficulty taking exams amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ten-campus system had already instituted a “test optional” policy at most campuses in May, putting in place a suspension on the requirement until fall 2024, but the judge said allowing students the option to send in scores at some campuses would afford privileged, non-disabled students a “second look” in admissions.

Campuses that chose to allow applicants to send scores would evaluate an applicant first without scores and then would re-review the application, taking the scores into consideration, the ruling said. While not submitting scores was not used against prospective students, sending good scores could only help an application, the judge said. 

UC had planned to become “test-blind” in 2023, meaning scores would not be considered at all for California high school applicants in admissions selection, but the ruling orders the campuses to stop considering test scores immediately.

“Unlike their non-disabled peers, they do not have the option to submit test scores; even if they did, their chances of obtaining necessary test accommodations are virtually non-existent,” Seligman wrote.

“They get no second look or ‘plus factor’ that non-disabled students are afforded in the admissions process,” the judge wrote.

Public Counsel, which was part of the lawsuit, in a statement called the judge’s ruling “groundbreaking” and said “the decision recognized that the use of the tests at UC campuses would create a two-tier system inaccessible to students with disabilities and ultimately harmful to students.”

UC said in a statement Tuesday that it “respectfully disagrees with the Court’s ruling,” and it will consider whether to pursue further legal action.

The UC system, which enrolls more than 280,000 students and has more than 227,000 faculty and staff, “remains committed to enrolling a student body that reflects the broad diversity of cultural, racial, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds characteristic of California,” the statement added.

Critics of the college entrance exams have long said that the exams give students from wealthy families an unfair advantage in the admissions process compared to students from low-income families.

More than 50 schools have dropped the ACT/SAT requirement for at least fall 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.

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