UC, CSU cite mass disruptions to K-12 schools in decisions to change requirements for 2021 and incoming fall 2020 students
In response to the novel coronavirus outbreak that has upended the lives of students in California, the University of California (UC) and California State University (Cal State) systems announced they would be relaxing its admissions requirements for 2021 and beyond, according to two separate announcements released on Wednesday, April 1.
The UC Board of Regents, the governing body of the UC that oversees nearly 300,000 students across 10 campuses, decided to ease UC admissions criteria late Tuesday night as a response to the cancellation of testing by the SAT and ACT this spring amid the coronavirus-related school cancellations across the state.
“We want to help alleviate the tremendous disruption and anxiety that is already overwhelming prospective students due to COVID-19,” John A. Perez, chair fo the UC Board of Regents said in a statement. “By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors — including suspending the use of the SAT — for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students.”
Most high schools have adopted a “pass/fail” or “credit/no credit” form of grading instead of letter grades for any of the 15 A-G courses needed to be eligible for UC admission, and the GPA they had before the shutdown will be accepted.
As major determinants for college admission, the cancellation of the SAT, ACT and other college entrance tests for fall 2021 admission was a major turning point for prospective students of the UC and the CSU.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is a disaster of historic proportions disrupting every aspect of our lives, including education for high school students, among others,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement endorsing the changes. “The University’s flexibility at this crucial time will ensure prospective students aiming for UC get a full and fair shot — no matter their current challenges.”
Among other “short-term measures” that the Regents approved of include suspending letter grade requirements for A-G courses that were completed in the winter/spring/summer 2020 quarters.
Likewise, the Cal State system, which oversees 23 diverse campuses from Humboldt to San Diego, has also implemented its own relaxed measures in a statement from the Office of the Chancellor.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become necessary to adjust some CSU admission requirements and prior guidance to incoming students for fall 2020 and beyond,” the guideline read.
Like the UC, the Cal State campuses are accepting “credit/no credit” and “pass/fail” grades to satisfy the A-G requirements. But the Cal State will not hold its system-wide Early Start Program for the summer of 2020; although, individual campuses may offer online summer transitional programs.
The College Board, the non-profit organization that administers standardized tests and curricula for K-12 and higher education institutions, also recently announced changes to Advanced Placement (AP) exam content and format for tests administered for spring 2020. Both the Cal State and the UC will continue awarding credit to those who pass with a score of 3 or above.
Additionally, students will not be penalized for late submissions of their official transcripts for high school seniors who have already been accepted. The UC and the Cal State still ask for students to send in final transcripts by July 1 and July 15, respectively, but admission offers will not be revoked if the deadline isn’t met.
Filipino students and parents weigh in
Jenny Fernandez, 16, is a junior at Franklin High School in Highland Park, and ever since the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) shut down, she and her mother have been worried college prospects.
“Eleventh grade is the most important grade when it comes to applying for college, and I was really worried that with everything going on, my grades and all the things would just go down the toilet,” Fernandez told the Asian Journal in a recent phone interview.
Fernandez was a part of the school’s varsity soccer team and was hoping to leverage her lifelong soccer career into a scholarship. Described as a high achiever by her mother, Fernandez is also a member of the California Scholarship Federation and planned on studying kinesiology in college.
“Everything she’s done so far — soccer, AP and SAT test prep, getting involved in the various clubs on campus — has been towards getting into a great university, and as a parent, I was heartbroken when all of this went down,” Fernandez’s mother Pam said, calling her daughter an “unprovoked star student.”
“She did all this on her own, and I’m so proud of her,” the mother said. “I never had to force her to get good grades and I was that you know, stereotypical Asian parent always dissatisfied with her report cards. And you know, she was really bummed out when all this went down and I just had to tell her that everything is gonna be okay. We just have to stay safe right now, and we’ll figure everything else out later.”
In response to the loosened requirements for UC and CSU admissions, both mother and daughter felt that the latter’s chances of getting into her top three schools — UCLA, UC San Diego and Cal State Long Beach — were within reach despite the COVID-19-related social and institutional restrictions.
“It was like a huge relief, and it makes sense because none of this is our fault and we should have a fair shot at applying and getting into these really prestigious schools,” Fernandez remarked, citing the changes in the SAT requirements as a personal comfort for her.
She added, “I didn’t score as well as I wanted so knowing that that won’t factor into my application makes me feel a lot better.”
As Filipino American families struggle to maintain some semblance of normal life for school-aged children, parents are worried about the effectiveness of distance learning and if their children are still getting a quality learning experience through virtual lessons.
Jeff and Moira Mendoza have two high schoolers, one in 9th grade and one in 11th grade. They had a similar fear that the Fernandez family had about whether or not attending a university was on the cards for their 11th grader. (The couple asked not to include the names of their children.)
“When the shutdowns happened across the district, we were all so worried about how this affects our kids’ possibilities of attending college,” Moira Mendoza told the Asian Journal. “And I think what [is] top of mind for us was how this affects their learning now. We commend the teachers for doing as much as they can for the students, but this doesn’t replace the value of a classroom.”
In response to the UC’s and Cal State’s new flexibility in admissions, the Mendozas were also worried about how these changes affect financial aid.
According to the Cal State’s guidelines, any financial aid that is awarded to a student will not impede their ability to be officially admitted after final transcripts are received and reviewed by their campus. The UC offered no specifics but assured that its campuses will work with students’ families over the summer to review financial aid eligibility.
Despite these assurances, the Mendozas expressed concern over the family’s economic instability and predict that when their 11th grader begins applying to colleges, their financial situation will get even worse.
Jeff Mendoza was recently laid off from his job as a floor manager at a local restaurant, and as a result, the family is in the process of applying for public benefits.
“It’s difficult because as Filipinos, we have a lot of pride, and I always wanted to ensure that we would never have to rely on food stamps or anything like that,” he said. “And having a kid who’s almost ready for college, and worrying about how we’re going to pay for her applications and eventual tuition is just another stress we don’t need.”
To that point, Moira Mendoza added, “And we know that we’re far from the only family going through this right now, and that is both comforting and terrifying.”