But last year, students sued the university, with lawyers arguing in court that even 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 — and therefore were denied the opportunity to submit scores.
An Alameda County Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction, ruling that the university system was not permitted to factor in SAT and ACT scores in admissions decisions, even if the tests were optional.
The University of California complied with the decision, but strongly disagreed and filed an appeal, a spokeswoman said in a statement. At the same time, the university system explored the possibility of a settlement “that would provide certainty for students and their families, counselors, and high schools,” the statement said. The parties reached an agreement, which was approved on Thursday by the University of California Board of Regents, the university said.
The settlement provides that the university, if it chooses a new exam for entrance in the future, “will consider access for students with disabilities in the design and implementation of any such exam.” It also specifies that the university system will pay more than $1.2 million to the students’ lawyers.
More than half of the country’s four-year colleges and universities dismissed the ACT or SAT for fall 2021 admission, according to FairTest, a group that has pushed to end testing requirements. This means that 1,240 institutions — including top universities like Brown, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, the University of Virginia and Yale — are test-optional. Some of these same schools, including the University of Virginia, have expanded their test-optional admissions beyond fall 2021.
SAT and ACT scores for the University of California may now be used only for the limited purposes of fulfilling the English subject-matter requirement, course placement or advising after students are admitted — if applicants choose to submit them, the university said.
Critics of the ACT and SAT have raised concerns that the tests put less wealthy students at a disadvantage, citing decades of data indicating that they are inherently biased in favor of affluent, white and Asian-American students. They also say the tests are too easily gamed by students who can pay thousands of dollars for private coaching and test prep.