Earlier this month, the UC regents approved a dramatic change to the UC admissions process by eliminating the SAT Subject Tests requirement. While some students have applauded the move as a step for greater equity and accessibility, others have condemned it as compromising the quality of students at UC.
“I believe that my degree will go down in value as a direct result of this change,” said Tierney Burke, a sophomore political science major and chair of the Davis College Republicans, who have been outspoken in their opposition to the new policy. “Without the SAT Subject Tests, we are just lowering the quality of education here instead of allowing people to go through the community colleges and CSU systems.“
Beginning with the fall class of 2012, students will no longer have to take the SAT Subject Tests, also known as SAT II. Currently, UC applicants have to report at least two SAT Subject Test scores to have their application considered.
The regents also adjusted the benchmarks for guaranteed admission to UC. Previously, students in either the top 4 percent in their high school class or top 12.5 percent statewide were guaranteed admission to at least one UC school. Starting with the fall class of 2012, students must be in either the top 9 percent of their high school class or in the top 10 percent statewide.
The UC Office of the President says the net effect of the change will be fewer students guaranteed admission to the UC. However, the move will also mean that more students from less competitive high schools will be guaranteed admission by virtue of their high school class rank, at the expense of students at more competitive high schools who would have qualified by their statewide rank under the old policy.
When the ASUCD Academic Affairs commission was presented with a proposed senate resolution in support of the admissions policy change, it was evenly split and thus could not send the legislation to the ASUCD Senate for a vote, said Marcus Tang, the commission chair.
Tang said he supports the new policy because he believes the SAT Subject Test requirement is unfair to students who cannot afford preparatory courses. While he acknowledged that he could understand why some students might be concerned about applicant quality, he said the SAT Reasoning Test and grade point average should be sufficient metrics for the admissions process.
“I’m really enthusiastic about it. It’s important to make the UC first and foremost accessible,” said Tang, a junior political science major. “I think its suspect to say that students who do well on the SAT II are going to be competitive.“
While UC posits that the SAT Subject Tests add little value to a student’s application, The College Board, which publishes and administers the tests, claims otherwise.
“The Subject Tests have a proven track record of providing admissions officers with a highly reliable measure of students‘ preparation for college-level work in particular subjects,” said Alana Klein, a spokesperson for The College Board, in an e-mail interview.
Klein said that grade inflation and varying high school academic standards make the Subject Tests particularly valuable. The tests have also provided non-native English speakers another means of demonstrating their academic potential, she said.
“We believe that the tests are effective and useful to the UC system,” Klein said. “This said, we are a membership organization, and we respect the right of colleges and universities to make their own policy decisions.“
Fifteen percent of the California applicant pool is found ineligible due to failure to take either a required course or submit a required test score. In fall 2007, 2,200 of the 11,000 ineligible applicants had GPAs over 3.5, according to documents accompanying the July regents meeting. Under the new policy, the majority of these students‘ applications will be eligible for review.
Burke stopped short of calling the new change a runaround for affirmative action, which California voters banned from public institutions in 1996. However, she believes race is a factor in the new policy.
“I believe it is definitely switching the focus on things like standardized testing and other academic qualifications and focusing more on race,” she said.
Burke said students should be responsible for ensuring they meet all the eligibility requirements. Those who cannot afford standardized tests should be provided scholarships, she said.
But in his visit to UC Davis last month, student Regent-designate Jesse Bernal called the SAT II unfair.
“The SAT II’s statistical impact on underrepresented and low-income students is that it’s a barrier to access,” Bernal said. “Where it’s only a barrier, why do we need it?”
UC Davis assigns a point value based on test scores and GPA to each applicant as part of a Comprehensive Review admissions system. It is yet unknown how the new admissions requirements will affect the profile of admitted UC Davis students, said Pamela Burnett, director of undergraduate admissions.
As a result of the new eligibility requirements, the Academic Senate’s Admissions and Enrollment Committee will decide what adjustments should be made to UC Davis Comprehensive Review, Burnett said.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at email@example.com.