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SAT/ACT rules, fall options and financial aid amid COVID-19

UC changes standardized testing requirements, adopts principles for return to on-site activities

This post is verbatim from the University of California:

As the ongoing public health crisis continues to make the future uncertain for many California families, the University of California has advanced its commitment to equity as well as to address the impacts of COVID-19 and chart a roadmap for a return to on-site activities.

Changes to standardized test requirement (SAT/ACT) for freshmen

On Thursday, May 21, the UC Board of Regents unanimously approved the suspension of the requirement for all California freshman applicants until fall 2024. The suspension will allow the university to create a new test that better aligns with the content the university expects students to have mastered for college readiness. The university will also eliminate altogether the SAT Essay/ACT Writing Test as a requirement for UC undergraduate admissions, starting with fall 2021 applicants.

The following outlines the Regents’ actions:

  • Test-optional for fall 2021 and fall 2022: Campuses will have the option to use ACT/SAT test scores in selection consideration if applicants choose to submit them, and will develop appropriate policies and procedures to implement the Board’s decision.
  • Test-blind for fall 2023 and fall 2024: Campuses will not consider test scores for California public and independent high school applicants in admissions selection, a practice known as “test-blind” admissions. Test scores could still be considered for other purposes such as course placement, certain scholarships, and eligibility for the statewide admissions guarantee.
  • New standardized test: Starting in summer 2020 and ending by January 2021, UC will undertake a process to identify or create a new test that aligns with the content UC expects students to have mastered to demonstrate college readiness for California freshmen.
  • Elimination of the SAT/ACT test requirement: By 2025, any use of the ACT/SAT will be eliminated for California students and a new UC-endorsed test to measure UC-readiness will be required. However, if by 2025 the new test is either unfeasible or not ready, consideration of the ACT/SAT for freshman admissions would still be eliminated for California students.

The suspension allows UC to address concerns about equitable treatment for all students regardless of whether they submit a standardized test score. The Regents’ vote also acknowledges the likely ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, families and schools.

The timeline for implementation and more detail about the decision can be found here.

UC Fall instruction options

The University of California Regents has adopted a set of principles that will guide actions as both a generalized system, and at each campus location, as on-site operations increase and in the event they need to be scaled back to respond to a future pandemic surge.

The Principles for Responsible Operation of University Locations in Light of the SARS-COV-2 Pandemic provide a unified set of standards for the entire UC system.

These include a testing plan, a contact tracing plan, and a quarantine/isolation plan. Once they have satisfied these standards, campuses may consider how to best approach their comprehensive plans for the fall.

Campuses will also be expected to have plans in place for physical distancing and other public health protocols, such as wearing face masks, and be ready to make rapid adjustments to campus operations if public health conditions warrant the change. Read more about these principles.

Remote instruction
While the university continues to explore all available options, it is taking care to inform students that some or all instruction for all or part of Academic Year 20-21 may be delivered remotely. Tuition and mandatory fees have been set regardless of the method of instruction and will not be refunded in the event instruction occurs remotely for any part of the Academic Year.

We know that students and families are anxious to get some definitive answers. UC campuses are actively engaged in scenario planning for the fall term, with decisions that could come as early as mid-June.

Federal CARES Act funding provides relief for current UC students

The Federal CARES Act provided $130 million in emergency grant aid to UC Students. Congress intended that these grants help students in covering immediate expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. UC campuses have distributed nearly all of the funds for its current enrolled students and we anticipate the funds being exhausted by the end of Summer 2020.  The grants went to the lowest income students, with special augmentations for vulnerable groups of students, such as parenting students and former foster youth.

Financial aid for 2020 and beyond

With all the current uncertainty, one thing California students can rely on is the robust financial aid programs available at UC. It is still true that California students with family incomes less than $80,000 and who are eligible for financial aid, will receive enough grant and scholarship funding to cover their systemwide tuition and fees (currently $12,570 for the 2020-21 year).

We understand that many California families have been or will be financially impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Please inform your students that they can request a re-evaluation of their financial aid offer based on changes in their families’ financial circumstances.  How UC will be able to respond to these appeals will be dependent on allocations of future federal and state funding. They can utilize the financial aid/net price calculator for the campus they are planning to attend to determine if the change in their finances may result in a change in their financial aid offer. Students and their parents should visit campus websites to see how best to contact the financial aid office.

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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