Golden said he had ambivalent positions on the SAT, and noted that he had not taken a position on it in his book. Anything would be better than basing decisions on wealth, though, he said. “Opponents of the SAT often talk as if it’s the only instrument of privilege in college admissions — ignoring the preferences for children of legacies and donors. Unlike those preferences, the SAT at least tries to gauge the candidate’s individual merit.”

The SAT could actually be helpful for lower income students who perform well and even lessen legacy applicants, he argued. “If a minority applicant from a low-performing high school does well on the SAT, that score could be a noteworthy indication of academic potential. If a legacy or a development applicant, with all of the advantages of wealth and parental education, bombs on the SAT, that’s a strong signal that he or she may not be serious about learning. Indeed, without SAT scores to act as a check on these preferences, it’s likely that the number of legacies and development admits at elite universities would be even greater than it already is.”