Education A National Roundup

California Panel Raps Merit-Scholars Program

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — March 29, 2005 1 min read

A committee for the University of California system, citing concerns over the use of a single test to select semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships, has recommended that the board of regents suspend participation in the awards program.

The Board of Admissions and Relations With Schools, a UC faculty group that makes recommendations on admissions policies, sent letters to university officials this month after concluding that the criteria for screening potential finalists for the competition were inappropriate.

Students are selected as semifinalists based on their scores on the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, the test administered by the College Board that is generally taken by high school juniors.

About 15,000 of the 1.3 million students who take that test annually are selected as finalists for the scholarship program after a further review of their academic records, school recommendations, and personal essays.

Proponents of the program say PSAT scores provide a uniform measure of academic proficiency without requiring an additional test.

The College Board’s trustees voted unanimously March 24 to continue use of the PSAT as the qualifying exam, according to The Washington Post.

Some 200 colleges and universities agree to offer scholarships in varying amounts to finalists who attend their institutions.

The UC board of regents has not yet taken action on the recommendation.