For the past three months the University of California Board of Regents has been considering a proposal that would eliminate the requirement for applicants to submit SAT II subject test scores in order to have their applications reviewed.
The plan, developed by faculty members in the Academic Senate, is intended to decrease the number of applications denied consideration for technical reasons that could be due to poor advising. Applicants would still be asked to submit the scores, but their applications would not be tossed aside for failing to do so as they are now.
While this represents a large shift in UC‘s decades-old admissions policy, it‘s a necessary and fair change.
Students who receive inadequate advising from their high school counselors but are otherwise qualified and competitive applicants should at least be given consideration. In 2007, for example, 2,200 of the applicants deemed ineligible had GPAs over 3.5. By ignoring these students, UC is depriving itself of a qualified applicant pool that contains a significant number of underrepresented minorities and low-income students, according to a study done by the California Post-Secondary Education Commission. As a public institution, UC should be making every effort to give these students a fair evaluation.
The plan also lowers the number of students guaranteed admission to at least one UC campus from the top 12.5 percent of California high school graduates to the top 10 percent. Opponents of the plan argue that this takes a seat away from students who completed all the requirements. However, the new pool of applicants is merely granted review, not guaranteed admission as traditionally eligible applicants are. The reduction in guaranteed admission only serves to make room in the system for applicants granted review under the proposal who are competitive enough to make it in on their own merits.
Furthermore, eliminating the SAT II requirement will raise the bar for UC admission by placing greater weight on grades, essays and SAT reasoning test scores. The admissions process uses a GPA/test score index as one of the deciding factors in admission. Currently that index is so low that almost everybody who takes the correct courses will clear it, said Mark Rashid, UC Davis professor and the former chair of the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. Under the plan, the index would be ratcheted up in order to delineate the top 10 percent of high school graduates, effectively increasing the standard of performance for admission.
This plan is a justified and appropriate attempt at accounting for the widespread disparities that exist in the high school experiences of UC applicants. A student in a low-income neighborhood without a college-going culture very likely won‘t receive the same quality of advising as more affluent applicants. UC doesn‘t have control over the majority of factors that give some students an advantage over others, but it can control this. Students who work hard enough to be competitive in the UC applicant pool but fail to qualify for a technical reason like this should at least have their otherwise complete application read and considered.