By You Jong Kim | Contributing Writer | Notes from the Field | The Daily Californian News Blog - The student newspaper of the University of California
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 -- The UC Board of Regents approved major changes to their admissions system, including a decision to end a system-wide standard that required students to send in two SAT II Subject Test scores as part of the admissions process.
"The bottom line is that it will be more diverse and fairer," commented UC President Mark Yudof.
But wait a minute, wasn't this the school system that tried to kill the SAT Reasoning Test? Granted, neither the SAT I nor the SAT II-nor any other standardized tests, for that matter-can gauge a student's true abilities, yet the fact is widely acknowledged that SAT subject tests serve as a better indicator for an applicant's aptitude to take on academic rigor. In fact, just eight years ago, the University of California Office of the President released a press statement that SAT II Subject scores "are better predictors of UC freshmen grades than are scores on the SAT I reasoning test." In addition, UC studies also found that students' socioeconomic differences have a negligible impact on SAT II scores. Considering that black and Latino students score the lowest average in the SAT reasoning tests according to the College Entrance Examination Board, this is simply the wrong plan to help America's ethnic minorities.
Why the sudden change of heart? Perhaps the disturbing answer is racial discrimination.
According to figures from Inside Higher Ed, the numbers and the board's plan just do not add up. Although black students would receive the greatest boost in "Eligibility for Review" with the repeal of SAT II requirements, the percentage of the class admitted under the new rules would increase about one percent, from four to five percent. Latino students also would experience a miniscule increase in admission, from 19 percent to 22 percent at best. The white student population would show the greatest increase, from 34 percent to at least 41 percent. In contrast to all other racial groups, however, the admissions of Asian-Americans, the largest current ethnic group to comprise the UC student population, would take a steep plunge from 36 percent to 29 percent. Not only does the plan provide insubstantial aid to the most underrepresented minorities, but it also closes a door for another minority group that has thrived under the current system.
Why would the revocation of the SAT II requirement display such a steep change in white and Asian students?
Under a 1996 National Science Foundation study, Asian students took more high school science and mathematics courses than their white peers and had the highest median score compared to any other racial group in the math portion of the SAT I and on the math and science achievement exams. Asian students, accordingly, have the best scores on the subject tests.
Although Asian-Americans make up 4.5 percent of the U.S. population, they compose 10 to 30 percent of the student body at the nation's top colleges. Asian students in California especially have thrived since 1996 with the passage of Proposition 209, an amendment to the state constitution that prohibits public institutions from considering sex, ethnicity or race in the admissions process. Now unhindered by affirmative action or blatant college quotas, they make up the largest racial group at various UC campuses, such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Irvine.
In other words, Asian students risk "over-representing" their race, and the UC Board of Regents seems intent on changing that.
"More diverse and fairer?" I think not.