BERKELEY (KPIX) – The Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT has been a target of equity-minded education reformers for a long time. Now, a judge in Alameda County has found that, because of coronavirus, the test discriminates against people with disabilities. That means the test is out for all the campuses in the University of California system.

“I’m all for getting rid of the SAT requirement,” says UC Berkeley senior Sarah Bancroft. “I think it reproduces the same classist issues with university admissions.”

You won’t find much love for the SAT on the Berkeley campus, partly because you won’t find many people here at all. While the UC system has been phasing out standardized testing, the latest decision is a profound one.

“Why is the UC decision so important,” asks Barbara Harris of Harris College Advising. “It is really important because UCs set the tone for so much of the rest of the country.”

Harris is a longtime college advisor. She says while the SAT’s eventual demise was inevitable, it is happening more quickly now. Her advice for applicants is to aim for a more holistic presentation.

“I would put the emphasis on rigor, making sure you are taking as many AP classes as possible,” Harris says. “I would put the emphasis on trying to really pursue an intellectual interest outside of school.”

Without a simple test score to weed out candidates, the change also means a tremendous challenge for the schools themselves.

“Colleges will have to hire a vast amount of readers to start looking at applications in more depth,” Harris says.
The test change is just one upheaval underway on college campuses, now resuming largely without students. Harris says these dynamics already have families reconsidering what they want from higher education, and what it is worth.

“Let’s face it, people are paying a fortune for these selective colleges, and if it’s remote, online, people are starting to defer and step back and start to reevaluate, ‘is it worth it, am I getting that much more out of it.’”

There is yet another possible sea change coming for California’s public schools. In November, Californians will vote on ACA 5, a constitutional amendment that would reverse Prop. 209 and mean the return of affirmative action. That could also have profound implications for admissions at the state’s universities.

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