Lawsuit contends basing University admittance on SAT/ACT scores is unconstitutional and biased

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Pro bono law firm Public Counsel has taken issue with the University of California policy of requiring an SAT and ACT score to enter the school, claiming it is “exacerbating inequities in the public school system.”

Attorney Mark Rosenbaum claims that basing college admittance on standardized test scores reinforces an already un-level playing field when it comes to the journey of higher education.

“The evidence that we’re basing the lawsuit on is not in dispute. What the SAT and ACT are doing are exacerbating inequities in the public school system and keeping out deserving students every admissions cycle,” he claims.

“There probably is no playing field less level than the journey to go to college and higher education — and the SATs are a part of that,” he continued. “But they’re not the whole story.”

The University of California system, home of such prestigious bastions of liberal thought as UC Berkeley and UCLA, has already begun considering abandoning the need to require an SAT and ACT score to attend their universities.

UC Berkeley’s Carol Christ had said at an event in November that she is “very much in favor of doing away with the SAT or ACT as a requirement for application to the University of California,” though she clarified that this doesn’t necessarily mean a policy change is imminent.

The lawsuit claims that the requirement is not only unfair, but violates the California constitution as well, and “discriminates against applicants on the basis of race and wealth.”

The College Board disagrees with the idea that the SAT is somehow biased, saying instead that the results are indicative of future success in college and that – when coupled with a potential student’s grades – give “more insight into a student’s potential to succeed than either measure alone.”

The ACT also disagrees with the lawsuit’s premise, and warned that “[b]laming standardized tests for differences in educational quality and opportunities that exist will not improve educational outcomes.”

But according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (NCFOT), nearly 50 schools in 2019 made standardized test scores optional in their application process. In fact, the University of Chicago saw an increase in first-gen and low-income students on their campus once they implemented the policy.

While Rosenbaum agrees that such a change would not completely solve problems faced by the higher-education system, NCFOT director Bob Schaeffer believes that University of California’s adoption of the policy would not only affect diversity among their own admissions but would also have a “profound” impact on the application process of colleges around the country.

“If the University of California were to go ahead and drop the testing requirements, it would have profound and widespread effects in the college admissions arena,” he said. “If University of California can go test-optional, pretty much any school could.”

The lawsuit stands to potentially affect around 250,000 students and nine establishments under the UC banner.

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