University of California eases admission requirements to help students during COVID-19 pandemic

The University of California announced Wednesday that it will suspend admission testing requirements for students seeking to enroll in fall 2021, among other temporary measures, to help students during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors — including suspending the use of the SAT — for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students,” said John A. Perez, chair of the UC Board of Regents.

The global pandemic has caused cancellations of standardized testing across the U.S. The College Board canceled all SAT sessions in March and May. The ACT also rescheduled its April 4 test date to June 13, causing disruptions for high school juniors who were seeking to take the exam before college applications this fall. 

“The health and safety of students is our first priority, and we are collaborating with higher education institutions to provide flexibility to students and to support admissions under these unprecedented circumstances,” the College Board said in a statement. “We’re working to address testing access issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic and will provide additional SAT testing dates and increased capacity as soon as the public health situation allows.”

“If, unfortunately, schools cannot reopen this fall, we’re pursuing innovative means to ensure all students can still take the SAT this fall. In every situation, we are committed to finding opportunities through which all students, especially low income students, can distinguish themselves in admissions,” the College Board said.

With sudden shifts to remote learning and executive stay-at-home orders, concerns over academic grades and meeting college application requirements are intensifying.

Prior to the pandemic, the university was in the middle of a lawsuit over the use of standardized tests as part of its admission requirement. The coalition of students and activists who sued the university system argue that SAT and ACT exams are discriminatory because they have created a lucrative test-prep industry that is out of reach for many low-income families.

In recent years, a significant number of U.S. colleges have adopted alternative admission policies such as test-optional to make the application process more accessible for all students.

The ongoing debate is likely to escalate as the UC Board of Regents reviews its applicant pool for the class of 2025 without standardized test scores.

The university also said it will suspend its letter grade requirement for A-G courses completed in winter/spring/summer 2020 for all students, including its most recently admitted freshmen. A-G courses are UC-approved college preparatory classes that all entering freshmen must have completed in high school with a minimum of a “C” grade.

Due to the global health crisis, many high schools adopted a “pass/fail” or “credit/no credit” grading system for the remainder of the school year.

UC said it understands that this measure may have an adverse effect on the incoming freshman class and high school students who wish to apply in the future.

“The goal of these changes is to ensure a fair process that does not affect the life chances of students who, but for the coronavirus pandemic, would have become full-time students at the University of California,” said Kum-Kum Bhavnani, chair of the Academic Senate.

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