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UC regents committee votes to drop SAT subject tests

February 4, 2009 |  1:15 pm

University of California regents today gave preliminary approval to a change in freshman admission standards that would drop the requirement for SAT subject exams and make more students eligible for a review of their applications while guaranteeing admission to fewer of them. If approved by the full board Thursday, it will take effect for students seeking admission for fall 2012, with current high school freshmen the first to be affected.

The proposal's backers, including UC President Mark G. Yudof, contend the overhaul is needed to ensure that talented students are not shut out of UC for technicalities or because their high schools do not offer enough college-prep classes. "I believe it increases both fairness in our system and opportunity for our students, and it does so while maintaining the very high standards that are the bedrock of our institution," Yudof said at a regents meeting in San Francisco.

However, some critics in the university and the Legislature see the plan as an unwarranted departure from California's long-held master plan for higher education and as an apparent attempt to get around the state's voter-approved ban on using race as a factor in public college admissions. Some regents also described it as just too complicated.

The regents’ committee on educational policy voted unanimously for the new admissions rules. The full Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on it Thursday and it would be rare for the board to reject a committee action.

Under the proposed changes, UC applicants would still be required to take the main SAT exam or the ACT test with a writing section. But they no longer would have to take two supplemental subject exams in such areas as history or math. Critics of the subject exams say they add little useful information to applications and that missing the tests is a major reason thousands of students with otherwise good grades and SAT scores are ineligible for UC schools.

-- Larry Gordon