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The SAT has never been particularly popular. Millions of students fear taking the college placement test every year. Civil rights advocates decry it as discriminating against those of lower economic standing. And some college administrators say that it is an inherently flawed means of measuring academic potential. But despite all the opposition, one fact about the SAT is true -- it remains the most universally accepted measure of student ability in our country. This week, the president of the University of California made waves in academia by recommending that the state's system of colleges and universities drop its reliance on the SAT as a factor in its admissions process. Should the California regents and faculty accept the president's sweeping suggestion, the nation's largest state-controlled higher education system would be the first to abandon the oldest and most relied-upon measure of student potential. And that move, should it become reality, could be harmful. As college admissions becomes an increasingly competetive enterprise, the importance of consistent measures of ability and promise is going to grow even more prevalent. High school grades, recommendations and activity reports are all useful and necessary components of the admissions application. But the circumstances and standards surrounding these criteria vary tremendously, and demand an additional means of objective perspective. That's where the SAT -- despite its flaws -- still provides value. No test can predict academic performance perfectly. And, to be certain, there still exist many inherent flaws in the application and makeup of the SAT. But rather than dismantling the framework entirely, academic leaders would benefit from reworking the assessment -- rather than abandoning a measure that generally provides a clear picture of student abilities. To go in any other direction -- in California, at Penn and anywhere in between -- could threaten the integrity of a balanced admissions process.

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