UC Drops ACT & SAT – Real or Threat?
The University of California has flexed its collective muscle before and threatened to drop the ACT and SAT from its admissions requirements. In fact, the UC has made similar threats publicly at least three times in the last 25+ years.
For those that don’t like to read, click on the image
above to watch this video on YouTube.
The $1 billion nonprofit College Board, creators of the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP Exams, and PSAT is led by President David Coleman. Coleman is no stranger to education or controversy (his previous role was as the architect of the Common Core State Standards). Mr. Coleman has a long career in developing content that he believes is important and necessary, even if the general public does not share the same belief.
With growing concern that the ACT and SAT no longer serves the UC’s best interest, UC President Janet Napolitano, a savvy career politician, led the charge to drop (or change) the test as part of the admissions requirements. While the headlines are quite alarming, the wording of the decision allows UC just enough wiggle room to continue to accept the ACT and SAT as long as changes are made.
The UC decision states, “if UC is unable to either modify or create a test that can be available for fall 2025…, the President recommends that UC eliminate altogether its standardized testing requirements.”
The UC clearly states that it is willing to accept an existing test that is modified to its liking or review a new one. The UC has clearly not been able to pressure the ACT and SAT into modifying its tests in private meetings, so Napolitano has publicly upped the stakes.
The UC is not wholly disappointed with the exams. Just last month, the UC Senate voted 51 – 0 to keep the tests, stating that professors found the test useful for admissions. In addition, the UC is keeping the test requirements “for other purposes such as course placement, certain scholarships, and eligibility for the statewide admissions guarantee.”
What could explain the back and forth with the approval then the immediate disapproval of the test? A quick look at the history of the strained relationship between the College Board and UC might provide more context.
First, UC is the College Board’s most significant “customer.” Over 200,000 prospective students apply to the UC system each year, with all of those students taking the ACT and/or SAT as part of the admissions requirements. While the UC does not pay the College Board for these tests, the College Board greatly relies on the income from these UC applicants.
When UC has been disappointed with the test in the past, they have not been shy about airing their grievances in public. In 1994, UC was unhappy that minority students were not adequately represented and forced the SAT to drop the vocabulary section from the test. After a few years of peace, in 2001, UC again threatened to drop the test, and the College Board once again complied with its demands.
In 2005, UC again lit a fire under the College Board because the test was biased against females, primarily minority females, so the test changed to a three-section test with a total score of 2400 instead of the traditional 1600. The additional writing section was biased in favor of females and was supposed to level the test results between males and females.
After losing market share to the ACT, in 2015 the SAT did a significant redesign and morphed into something that looked very much like the ACT After five years of data, the UC is clearly not happy with the current version of the tests and is once again forcing them to change.
The ACT and College Board make close to $1.75 billion each year. It is not clear if UC wants to get into the testing market to help prop up revenues which are going to be cut from the COVID-19 crisis, or if the wording allows for some joint partnership between the California State Unversity system and UC to create their own test. If the CSU and UC were to create their own exam, they would then need a way to administer that test. It is unlikely they want to get into that market, so this is possibly more saber-rattling than anything else.
Only time will determine what the result is, but the UC is looking for the best test, and they are using the momentum from the COVID-19 crisis of going test-optional to show the ACT and SAT who is really in charge.
Mike Flynn, owner of ∑ngenius Learning Centers, is a test-prep veteran with over 30+ years experience prepping students for the ACT and SAT. This latest chapter in the back and forth story between the UC and mega testing companies reads like the Star Wars saga, except it isn’t always clear which one represents the Dark Side!