If the University of California drops the SAT, what would take its place?
The debate over whether to stop using the SAT in admissions at the sprawling and nationally influential University of California is approaching a turning point. Anti-testing groups filed two lawsuits Tuesday demanding that the university drop the requirement for students to submit scores on the exam. This year’s Varsity Blues scandal illustrated just how far wealthy families will go to game it. And a growing number of UC regents and chancellors are publicly questioning its usefulness.
Less obvious, however, is what a post-SAT University of California might look like. Would the university simply go test-optional — letting students choose whether to submit scores — or test-flexible, accepting another standardized test in lieu of the SAT and its lesser-used cousin, the ACT? Should standardized tests be used just to decide whether an applicant is eligible for admission, or to winnow the pool of well-qualified contenders? And are test scores a necessary part of admissions at all?
Regardless of which path UC takes, eliminating the SAT requirement would likely not relieve the university’s ongoing capacity crunch. In fact, it could elicit more applications from students who otherwise might be deterred by their low test scores.
“The available evidence suggests the pool will get larger and more diverse,” said Chris Nellum, senior director of higher education research and policy at The Education Trust-West. “I think the UC is going to have to ask itself, ‘Can we accommodate those folks?’”