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California State University Drops SAT And ACT For Undergraduate Admission

A bookshelf in a bookstore is lined with SAT exam preparation books.
SAT test preparation books sit on a shelf at a Barnes and Noble store June 27, 2002 in New York City.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images North America)
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The Cal State University system has dropped the use of SAT and ACT standardized tests from its undergraduate admissions process. The system’s board of trustees approved the change on Wednesday, citing concerns that the exams unfairly favor students from privileged backgrounds.

The change comes on the heels of a similar move at the University of California, which permanently nixed the tests last year. Both university systems temporarily suspended the tests at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because of the potential threat of testing in person.

During this week’s CSU Board of Trustees meeting, members of its educational policy committee said that, when reviewing the “relevancy and role” of standardized test results, they considered research regarding disparate outcomes based on socioeconomic backgrounds, along with data pointing to the “negligible value of test scores in predicting student success.”

In lieu of standardized testing, CSU will adopt the multi-factor admissions process that’s been used during the pandemic. This process will consider students’ GPA, extracurricular activities and leadership roles. It will also take into account when applicants are the first in their families to go to college or attend a high school where a high percentage of students receive free or reduced-price meals.

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Krystal Raynes, a first-generation student majoring in computer science and business at Cal State Bakersfield, is a student trustee. She supported the change, citing her own experience.

I remember saving up my lunch money to take both the PSAT and the SAT because my parents didn't know what that was, and they didn't want to spend money on retaking a test. So, that's how I saved up for the SAT,” she said. “Meanwhile, I knew students that were prepping with tutors in junior high. And so there's definitely that economic gap there.”

Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit that works to increase educational access for Californians, lauded the change.

“A single 3-hour test on a Saturday morning has never measured a student’s full talent or potential,” she said.

A single 3-hour test on a Saturday morning has never measured a student’s full talent or potential.
— Michele Siqueiros, president, Campaign for College Opportunity

“What these tests have measured is the unfair advantage that privileged and wealthier students have, including access to expensive test prep, which focus on how to 'game' the test instead of measuring the knowledge gained by students in their high school courses,” she said in a statement. “As the nation’s largest four-year university system, educating over 480,000 students, the CSU is sending a clear message to Black, Latinx, low-income and first-generation students that they belong in California higher education.”

CSU joins a growing number of higher education institutions rethinking their admissions criteria. Nationwide, one estimate by the advocacy group FairTest finds that at least 1,825 four-year institutions have dropped the SAT and ACT as a requirement for admission.

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