Our Stories

VICTORY! Groundbreaking Settlement Eliminates SAT and ACT in Admissions at all UC Campuses

Public Counsel staff and attorneys with Winston & Strawn LLP gather with lead plaintiff Kawika Smith (second from left, bottom row) after filing the lawsuit in December 2019.

May 14, 2021

Students and community groups have reached a historic settlement with the University of California, eliminating the use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions and university scholarship decisions at all UC campuses. The settlement was in response to a suit filed in 2019 by a courageous group of students, advocates, and the Compton Unified School District, which asserted the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions decisions acted as a barrier to exclude students of color, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities.

Under the agreement, the University will maintain a test-free policy through at least 2025, preventing the implementation of a planned test-optional admissions policy this fall. In May 2020, the Regents acknowledged that the tests are “racist,” correlated to wealth and privilege, and “discriminatory,” but nonetheless voted to continue using the tests for another two years. Last August, our clients won a court order requiring the University to cease using the tests while their lawsuit was ongoing.

The settlement prevents the UC from going back to using tests that had unfairly discriminated against historically underrepresented students. Additionally, the settlement is likely to reverberate across the world of higher education, as admissions officers confront the harms of these discriminatory tests.

A huge congratulations goes to the individual and organizational plaintiffs, including College Access Plan, Little Manila Rising, Dolores Huerta Foundation, College Seekers, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Compton Unified School District, and Community Coalition. Additionally, Public Counsel was honored to work with an incredible group of co-counsel: Equal Justice Society, Brown Goldstein Levy, Winston & Strawn, Olivarez Madruga Lemieux O’Neill, and Potomac Law Group.

We are also proud of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project for its tremendous work to secure this victory. This achievement is a critical step towards ensuring that students will no longer face the roadblock of discriminatory testing while pursuing their dreams.