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Lawmakers lift SAT and ACT requirements, end legacy admissions to advance racial equity within colleges

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Posted at 8:25 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 08:03:00-04

SOUTHERN COLORADO — In an effort to advance racial equity within colleges, Colorado lawmakers have passed two bills to lift SAT and ACT requirements and end legacy admissions.

Both bills aimed at making admissions practices equitable for first-generation college students and people of color.

"It's a landmark achievement, especially for their family. We have to think about the hardships some of these families have really been through to get into education and not everyone has that opportunity. So when a student of color graduates, and has the opportunity to go to a university, it's such a big deal," said Jevon McKinney, Widefield School District 3 alumni.

But not every student has the same opportunities and resources as others.

"Being a minority student in education, I've noticed it in my own school district and other school districts. It's become an issue where so many black students who because of their circumstances in life are seen as not desirable or inferior to their counterparts. While a bunch of people get a lot of opportunities based on their family legacy or income, I see people who aren't connected get thrown off to the side," said McKinney.

Especially when it comes to preparing for the ACT and SAT or enrolling in a university.

"Black people, Latino people have so much less wealth accumulation than white people which is unfair so of course, they're not going to perform well on these tests. It's so based on if you can afford tutoring for these tests or books for these tests," said Meha Khanna, CU Boulder senior.

An equity issue that proponents behind House Bills 1173 and 1067 hope to change.

"Both of these bills have the goal of eliminating barriers to access to higher education," said Sarah Staron, Rocky Mountain Policy Fellow with Young Invincibles. "Neither prohibiting legacy admissions nor making Colorado a test option state when it comes to ACT and SAT scores do not change the rising high cost of tuition, it doesn't change the rising cost of books and other things. What it does do is eliminate some of those hurdles on that race that you're racing so that's really important."

Legislators pushing for a more holistic approach to the admission process.

"What we are really trying to do here is make sure we are looking at the merits. We're looking at how hard this student has worked. We want to create an even level playing field and not make it an easier level playing field because you had family that went to that university," said Rep. Kyle Mullica, (D) Adams County.

"If you have trouble getting in or access to higher education. A lot of times students of color are going to choose another field or another course of action," said Rep. Tony Exum, (D) Colorado Springs.

According to legislators, nearly 63% of White students and 67% of middle- to high-income students enroll in a bachelor’s degree program right after high school compared with only 42% of Latino students and 47% of low-income students who enroll directly from high school.

"At CU Boulder, the bill before this gave them a waiver for one year or not using test scores. It increased their admissions of students of color by 24 or 25 percent in that one year," said Exum.

He says creating equitable education has been a priority for his caucus.

"We've done a number of bills. For one, to increase the access to concurrent enrollment classes. There were a lot of students of color and different high schools throughout the state that didn't about these classes," said Exum.

Students say they're hopeful for a more equitable educational system.

The testing bill goes into effect immediately while the legacy admissions bill will after the legislature adjourns its session.