GPA from high school may not be the best predictor for college retention and graduation. You may remember a previous video of ours that discussed the University of California system being sued over their SAT/ACT scoring policy (if not we recommend you watch that video first!). The lawsuit, brought about by largely Black and Hispanic dominated school districts, argued that students should not be required to submit standardized test scores because they are discriminatory.
For context, the University of California is a 10 campus wide system with over 280,000 students. Unlike many private universities, the UC system is transparent with what factors they consider during the admission process. To gain admission into the UC system, they first look at your GPA and test score. If they meet a certain criteria, you will get into a UC school (no guarantee which one, however). Once you are admitted into the UC System, individual colleges will then look into other factors such as your essays, socio-economic background, and more personal details.
Comparing 2007 Study with 2020 Study
A 2007 study found that high school GPA was a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores. As a result, the UC system began to emphasize GPA over test scores.
But a UC wide study came out this year which tracked the metrics used to admit students into the UC system and how those students then performed in their freshman year. The study found that SAT/ACT scores are actually better predictors of college performance than GPA. Test scores also are about as good as high school GPA for predicting first year retention, UGPA, and graduation.
This is because of grade inflation within each school. The same study found that California high school’s GPAs vary greatly in grading standards. This makes it very difficult to compare students by using GPA.
In addition, the study found that the UC system is compensating well for the variance in SAT/ACT scores, but not for the variance in high school GPA.
So, What’s the Solution?
So what should the UC System do? Put more emphasis on GPAs despite the grade variance, or put more emphasis on SAT/ACT testing which disadvantage underrepresented minorities and low income students?
Three recommendations came out of the study:
- Rather than use solely GPA and test score to determine pathway into the UC system, other factors should be considered in the beginning.
- Expand the ELC pathway, which is the local pathway into the UC system for Californians. Currently, students in the top 9% of their high school receive admission into the UC system. The study recommends expanding that pool.
- Don’t abandon standardized tests.
It’s unclear what the UC system will do. What is clear, however, is that change must happen immediately.