PLEASE NOTE: To protect your safety in response to the threats of COVID-19, we are offering our clients the ability to meet with us via telephone or through video conferencing through a number of digital platforms. Please call our office to discuss your options.

Judge: UC system cannot use test-optional admissions policy

In May, the University of California Board of Regents voted to drop the SAT/ACT testing requirement for admissions. That policy goes into effect in 2023. However, in the meantime, the regents gave campuses the option of considering SAT and ACT tests as they holistically decide who to admit.

A number of campuses, including UCLA, UC Riverside and UC San Diego decided to adopt the test-optional policy, where a student who has taken one of the tests can submit their results for consideration, even though they are no longer required.

The decision to stop requiring SAT or ACT tests was made in response to arguments that low-income and minority applicants suffer disadvantage from the test requirement. In part, this is because the tests have been shown to be biased in favor of more affluent students.

‘Extra credit’ could be available to test takers

Challenging the test-optional policy were a group of students with disabilities. They argued that the pandemic has made it much harder, or even impossible, for students to obtain testing accommodations, if they can access a test center at all. The result, they argued, would be to significantly disadvantage applicants with disabilities.

Since the presence of a test score would only ever help an applicant, taking the test acts like extra credit. That extra credit is not available to people who can’t take the test due to the pandemic. Since students with disabilities are less likely than others to be able to access appropriate testing, they are systematically excluded from receiving the extra credit. That puts them at an unfair disadvantage in the application process.

The universities acknowledged the difficulties around testing in a pandemic but said that none of the students had actually shown they were unable to obtain accommodations for the test.

Ruling likely to last until official policy change

Now, a judge has agreed that the test-optional policy tends to disadvantage students with disabilities that require accommodation in test-taking. He ordered the universities not to take SAT or ACT tests into account in admissions for the duration of the lawsuit.

Since that lawsuit is likely to take some time, it is unlikely the universities will be able to obtain a judgment in their favor before the official policy begins in 2023.

If you have questions about testing accommodations or another issue for your student with a disability, the Leigh Law Group has experience in these areas.