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UC System Barred From Using SAT/ACT Scores in Admissions Process

A couple weeks ago, a California judge issued a preliminary injunction that bars the University of California system from considering ACT and SAT scores as part of their admissions process, effective immediately for the high school class of 2021. 

The original lawsuits were filed in December 2019, claiming that "the UC System is knowingly creating barriers to higher education for students of color and students with disabilities." 

This decision doesn't answer that question; the injunction issued by the judge instead directly relates to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the access to these tests: 

"The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites," Seligman said in his ruling. "While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even to locate suitable test locations for the test are 'almost nil'." 

Under test-optional policies, not submitting test scores does not penalize students, but submitting high scores can provide a boost to a student’s application. Because students with disabilities have had little opportunity to take the test during the pandemic, the judge argues, the option of submitting scores is practically unavailable. Essentially, the inability to use scores as an advantage was ruled to be an unfair disadvantage for those students.

The UCs are currently evaluating their legal options, so more news--and potential challenges--is sure to follow. But even if the decision is appealed, the judge has remarked that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail. The next court date is scheduled for September 29th.

This decision could have sweeping effects across the entire college admissions landscape, but that remains to be seen. For now, we still recommend students take these tests if they are safely able to do so.