U of California agrees not to use SAT, ACT in admissions through 2025 to settle lawsuit

by Joseph K. Clark

Dive Brief:

  • The University of California agreed Friday to not consider SAT or ACT scores in admissions decisions through 2025 to settle a lawsuit over its use of the entrance exams.
  • Advocates for low-income and racial minority students 2019 sued the UC System, arguing the exams were a biased measure of academic performance.
  • The impact of the settlement will likely reverberate through higher education and profoundly affect admissions testing, which was already being scaled back during the health crisis.

Dive Insight:

Last May several months after the lawsuit against UC was filed last May, the system’s regents voted to limit the SAT and ACT as admissions essential requirements. But the system, one of the largest in the U.S., had planned on allowing its campuses to accept test scores for two years before moving to test-blind admissions for state residents, meaning it would not review the scores. They still would have been used for certain scholarship decisions, however.

That changed when a state court last August blocked UC from using the SAT or ACT at all in admissions or scholarship decisions for the duration of the lawsuit. The settlement extends that court-ordered, test-blind policy for students applying for entry through spring 2025. It also forbids the system from using test scores when considering students for UC scholarships. The tests can be used for limited purposes, such as placing students in courses or advising them after admission. And UC campuses can still consider scores from the SAT Subject Tests, which the College Board ended this year.


The move delivers another blow to testing behemoths ACT and the College Board, which administers the SAT. They were already under financial stress as the pandemic curtailed how many high school students could take the exams. Many institutions temporarily converted to test-optional admissions in light of the health crisis, and at least 1,400 four-year schools have such policies for fall 2022 applicants, according to FairTest. This group advocates for the controlled use of standardized exams. A limited number of colleges have made the policies permanent. FairTest’s list also encompasses colleges that were test-optional before the pandemic.

In a statement, the organization’s executive director, Bob Schaeffer, described the settlement as a “landmark” case in ending “discriminatory testing in college admissions.” Admissions professionals say that, historically, most schools to pilot test-optional admissions stick with those policies. Whether that proves true for schools that went test-optional during the pandemic, the University System of Georgia said it would resume its entrance exam requirements this week. The College Board and ACT did not immediately provide comments to Higher Ed Dive by publication time Friday. The UC System offered no immediate comment to Higher Ed Dive on Friday other than reiterating the settlement terms.

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