UC to ease admission requirements: No SAT, no minimum grades due to coronavirus
The University of California will temporarily suspend admission requirements for SAT testing and minimum grades to support students affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The University of California announced Wednesday that it will greatly ease some admission requirements for fall 2020 and beyond by eliminating SAT test scores and minimum grades, saying that “grave disruption” to schools during the coronavirus crisis calls for maximum flexibility in evaluating students.
The move, authorized by UC Board of Regents leaders, will relax the admissions process for more than 200,000 prospective freshmen and transfer students who annually apply to the UC system’s nine undergraduate campuses but are now studying under dramatically different — and, for many, highly stressful — circumstances.
Those students may not meet UC admission requirements this year because their high schools or community colleges have shifted to online instruction with varying degrees of success, pass/fail grading systems or reduced course offerings.
In addition, standardized test scores may be difficult to obtain because testing dates are being canceled or postponed for many required tests, including the SAT and ACT, high school exit exams and, for international students, evaluations of English-language proficiency.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is a disaster of historic proportions disrupting every aspect of our lives, including education for high school students, among others,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “The University’s flexibility at this crucial time will ensure prospective students aiming for UC get a full and fair shot — no matter their current challenges.”
The 23-campus California State University was expected to take similar action for applicants, who last year numbered about 363,000.
“We owe it to our students to ensure that we’re supporting them in a process that is fair,” said Eddie Comeaux, who heads the UC Academic Senate committee that oversees all undergraduate admission policies and practices. “We want to ensure temporary flexibility, understanding that all requirements may not be met because of serious family or personal issues, or because a school decided to cancel certain courses or change the grading format.”
The Academic Senate agreed to temporarily suspend several admission regulations at the request of Han Mi Yoon-Wu, director of undergraduate admissions at the UC Office of the President. “With such grave disruption in the education system, administrators are seeking flexibility where possible under these untenable conditions,” Yoon-Wu wrote in a March 20 letter to Comeaux.
The modifications to admission requirements include:
- Suspending the letter grade requirement for the 15 prescribed college-preparatory courses completed in winter/spring/summer 2020 for all students, including UC’s most recently admitted freshmen
- Suspending the standardized test requirement for students applying for fall 2021 freshman admission.
- No rescission of student admissions offers that result from students or schools missing official final transcript deadlines. Also, admission will be honored through the first day of class until official documents are received by campuses.
- For transfer students, temporarily suspending the cap on the number of transferable units with Pass/No Pass grading applied toward the minimum 60 semester/90 quarter units required for junior standing.
Yoon-Wu noted that efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic had caused an “unprecedented and growing number of school closures” that have forced institutions to confront myriad challenges as they have switched abruptly to remote instruction.
The uncertainty is global, she said, noting that students studying overseas might be unable to earn the credentials typically required for UC admission, as prescribed testing has been or is likely to be disrupted in such countries as the United Kingdom, Pakistan, France, Germany and Italy.
“This period of uncertainty predicated by the COVID-19 situation greatly impacts our previously assured pipeline of students to UC, which includes California resident freshmen, California Community college transfers, domestic and international nonresidents,” she wrote. “The academic verification process … and enrollments will be notably compromised.”
UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez and Maria Anguiano, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee chair, approved the temporary waiver of admissions requirements.
“We want to help alleviate the tremendous disruption and anxiety that is already overwhelming prospective students due to COVID-19,” Pérez said in a statement. “By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors — including suspending the use of the SAT — for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students.”
Napolitano, in her request for board approval, said students can still submit standardized test scores, which can support their statewide UC eligibility, application for certain scholarships and help fulfill some university graduation requirements.
She said campuses would adjust their admissions review processes “to ensure that no student is harmed in admissions selection should they not submit a test score.”
The suspension of standardized testing requirements for applicants was “intended as an accommodation and not a permanent policy shift, and does not foreclose future Board policy actions with respect to the use of standardized tests in University admissions for fall 2022 applicants and beyond,” she said.
UC officials are currently debating whether to eliminate UC’s SAT and ACT testing requirements and the UC regents are expected to take action possibly in May.
Comeaux said the Academic Senate would encourage students to submit standardized test scores and other required documents but would ask campuses to be understanding if pandemic conditions prevent them from doing so.
Comeaux also said he expects campuses to accept the results of high school Advanced Placement exams even though they are being significantly revised to recognize the move to online learning and social distancing practices.
The College Board, which owns the exams, has announced they will be given at home as an open-book test this year and last only 45 minutes, which is significantly shorter than the usual two-to-three-hour duration. The test will include only material most teachers will have covered by early March. Students typically earn college credit for the courses if they earn a score of 3 or above.
UC campus admission directors say they plan to fully embrace the call for flexibility in how they handle applicants affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Lisa Przekop, UC Santa Barbara admissions director, said admitted students are usually required to accept an admission offer by May 1, for instance, and provide official transcripts documenting their self-reported grades by July. Those deadlines are important, she said, so campuses can begin planning housing assignments, orientations and other events.
Napolitano said those deadlines would remain in place but students and schools will not face consequences if they are not met, and students will not be required to submit a nonrefundable deposit by May 1 if they are unable to do so.
Przekop said UC Santa Barbara would use “maximum flexibility” in considering why some students may not make those deadlines or meet other requirements.
“We’re going to need to give students the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “I don’t want them to panic. We’re on their side.”