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UC System Will Phase Out Use of SAT and ACT, Experts Say Others May Follow

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  • The University of California said it will begin phasing out SAT and ACT testing requirements over the next few years.
  • It hopes to have its own test approved by 2025 that better aligns with its expectations of a student’s preparedness for a UC school.   
  • While the coronavirus pandemic has forced colleges to rethink their admissions process, debate over the use of standardized testing has existed for years.
  • Researchers say wealthier students perform better on these tests than low-income students, but critics say they are an objective way to measure an applicant’s potential.

UC Board of Regents Votes 

The University of California college system said it will be phasing out the use of SAT and ACT exams as requirements to apply to its schools. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced the standardized tests to be postponed until at least June in order to abide by social distancing guidelines. In response, the UC system said that it would not require the scores for students hoping to start in the fall of 2021. 

But now the system is taking it a step further. On Thursday the Board of Regents unanimously voted to permanently phase out the use of tests at its 10 campuses. This is a huge move for the system, which enrolls more than 280,000 students each year. 

“Today’s decision by the Board marks a significant change for the University’s undergraduate admissions,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. “We are removing the ACT/SAT requirement for California students and developing a new test that more closely aligns with what we expect incoming students to know to demonstrate their preparedness for UC.”

The plan is for UC schools to have the option to use ACT/SAT test scores for applicants seeking to enroll in the fall 2021 and fall 2022 school years, calling it a test-optional policy.

Then for the 2023 and 2024 admissions years, the scores from California applicants will only be considered for purposes such as course placement and some scholarships. This policy has been labeled a test-blind policy.

If a new test does not meet the specified criteria in time for admissions for the fall of 2025, the UC system will eliminate the standardized testing requirement for students altogether, according to the news release.

Administrators are still coordinating a separate approach for out-of-state and international applicants.

Not Just a Pandemic Related Decision 

The coronavirus pandemic has surely forced schools to rethink their admissions processes, but it’s important to note that this decision is not solely based on the public health crisis

It actually marks the culmination of a two-year study by the UC system that looked at the value of standardized tests in admissions. 

Even before the pandemic, some have questioned whether or not it is time to eliminate standardized testing as part of the college admissions process. That’s because some researchers have found that wealthier students perform better on these tests in comparison to lower-income students. 

The notorious college admissions scandal that was exposed last year then deepened concerns over testing practices as it was revealed that, in many cases, wealthy parents were paying to help their children cheat on exams.  

In an effort to address concerns over-testing, last year the College Board even proposed a new SAT grading system that came to be known as an “adversity score,” which would put a test taker’s results into the context of that student’s socioeconomic background. It later withdrew that proposal after earning much criticism for trying to minimize complex life factors into a single score. 

Students will likely continue to take the SAT and ACT as long as they are required by highly competitive and Ivy League schools. Still, experts think the UC system’s move will be followed by other school systems, especially since the University of California is the largest university system in the country, with some of the most respected public universities like UC Berkeley and UCLA. 

“There’s already been a trend towards test-optional because more and more schools are recognizing some of the problems with standardized testing and some of the bias in there,” Jeremy Alder founder and managing editor of College Consensus told CNBC. “I think this could definitely accelerate that trend.” 

On the opposing end, others have defended the testing process as an objective way to assess a student’s achievement and potential. “Standardized tests can level the playing field for low-income and rural college applicants,” Rich Saunders wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Making those tests optional may blunt that benefit.”

So for now it seems like test makers and colleges are still trying to figure out the best way for them to admit applicants. Some schools are already utilizing test-optional policies. The University of Chicago, Bowdoin College, and DePauw University, for instance, have all moved away from requiring standardized testing.  

However, most schools are also focusing on how the pandemic is impacting its recent flow of prospective students. More than 50 universities and colleges have dropped the ACT/SAT requirement for at least fall 2021, according to a list by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit organization working to end the misuse of standardized testing.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (CNN)

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Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices

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A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.


As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits

American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.

In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers. 

To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.

But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.

ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.

According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above —  earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.

“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.

Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.

Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices

To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.

In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.” 

The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.

The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.

During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.

“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”

“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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