A brick building on the UCLA Campus. There is a tree in front of it.
A campus view at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), one of the schools affected by the settlement.

On May 12, 2021, CAA, a lead plaintiff in Smith v. Regents of the University of California, reached a legal settlement with the University of California (UC), which has agreed to suspend review of the SAT or ACT in undergraduate admissions or scholarship considerations. 

CAA applauds the settlement, which will have wide-ranging implications on college admissions nationwide.  Research has repeatedly shown that the SAT and ACT have consistently rewarded wealth and privilege over academic potential.

Last spring, in coalition with education advocates like the College Access Plan and the Community Coalition, CAA joined Public Counsel in a lawsuit against the most notorious standardized tests being used in UC admissions. The legal action represented hundreds of parents, educators, and college students who have long fought for an admissions process that is accessible for low-income households, immigrant families, communities of color, persons with disabilities, and other underserved and underrepresented populations. 

In August, a state court ordered the University of California to suspend consideration of SAT and ACT scores for the Fall 2021 admissions cycle. Without standardized testing, the University of California received a record-high number of applicants from first-generation students and communities of color. The settlement makes the order permanent and is expected to produce a more diverse student population. “This is a message to students, parents and educators across the country that together, we can fulfill the promise of public education that provides opportunities for all students to succeed,” said CAA Co-Executive Director Vincent Pan. 

In an op-ed entitled “Colleges Should Admit Students Without the SAT or ACT”, Pan joined Mo Hyman, Executive Director of the College Access Plan, to call for more progressive models of college admissions that account for the link between privilege and access and better weigh evidence-based measures of college success such as academic motivation and self-efficacy. 

To increase awareness within Chinese immigrant communities, including parents whose school-age children stand to benefit from a more equitable admissions process, CAA is also leading on ethnic media awareness.  These efforts have already garnered coverage in news outlets including Chinese in LA and Hua Ren One, and earned thousands of impressions on digital platforms including WeChat and Weibo. 

A longstanding champion for education justice, CAA was involved in preparing the 1974 U.S. Supreme Court case, Lau v. Nichols, which compelled public schools to provide a bilingual education for the growing number of Chinese- and Spanish-speaking students in the United States. CAA also led a successful campaign for a permanent City College campus in San Francisco Chinatown. The Chinatown campus now provides generations of immigrant students with equal access to educational opportunities. More recently, we helped spearhead non-citizen voting in school board elections to give immigrant parents the power to advocate on behalf of their children’s interests. 

Though inequities remain within the college admissions process, the decision to end consideration of the SAT and ACT in UC admissions marks a tremendous victory for underrepresented communities and paves the way for other colleges and universities to follow suit. In a statement to the press, CAA Co-Executive Director Cynthia Choi emphasized the role of coalition-building and cross-racial solidarity in addressing all forms of structural racism: “All minorities need to stand together to ensure fair and equitable educational opportunities for all.”