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Saturday, April 13, 2024

California state legislators take action in response to college admissions scandal

UCOP responds to proposed bill package

California legislators introduced an admissions reform bill package in response to the nationwide college admissions scandal that broke earlier this spring.

Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, who represents the seventh district in Sacramento and heads the Budget Subcommittee on Education, has helped introduce a college admissions reform bill package into the state legislature. The bill package is also backed by Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Orange County) and Tasha Boerner-Horvath (D-Encinitas).

“The recent college admissions scandal involving some of the top universities in California, and across the nation, brought to light merely a portion of the fraudulent practices that have been taking place in college admissions due to a lack of oversight,” McCarty said via email. “Legislation is needed because for every student admitted through bribery, there was an honest and talented student that was rejected.”

In the bill package, checks and balances would ideally be strengthened, requiring admissions by exception, or “special admissions,” to be vetted by no fewer than three administrative figures at a given university before being accepted. These figures could include the Chancellor, the Vice President, the Provost or the Admissions Director, to name a few. These new processes would be overseen by the state auditor, who would examine the UC’s admissions process closely.

“Admission by Exception is typically reserved for students with non-traditional educational backgrounds, such as homeschooled students, students from rural or extraordinarily disadvantaged circumstances, or students with special talent in the arts or athletics arenas who narrowly miss the admission requirements,” the UCOP statement said. “Campuses use this policy very sparingly, with such students comprising approximately 2 percent of newly enrolled students systemwide.”

The University of California has said that it is committed to working with the state government to improve policies while investigating potential abuses of the current admissions system.

“We share California legislators’ outrage and concerns over the illegal and unethical actions of individuals who have impacted not only UC, but also public and private universities in California and across the nation,” said an official statement from the University of California Office of the President provided by Sarah McBride, a media and communications strategist with UCOP.  “UC’s Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services has already started its systemwide audit of admissions, including athletics. We continue to collaborate closely with state and federal authorities to investigate individuals who have been implicated and to gather additional information on how the university can make proactive improvements.”

Another bill, specifically supported by Ting, would ban preferential treatment at California universities for children who are related to donors or alumni. UCOP said that it doesn’t engage in these practices in the first place.

“As a public institution, UC forbids ‘legacy admissions,’ as noted in our longstanding Regents policy,” the UCOP statement said. “We do not grant preferential admission to the children of alumni or donors, nor have we in the past. In fact, we do not ask students about family members’ alma maters in the application process and therefore do not have that information, much less consider it.”

A university that fails to comply with the stipulations outlined in the bill could “risk exclusion” from the Cal Grant program.

The bill package also requests that the University of California and California State University systems examine the necessity of the SAT and the ACT.

“An assessment of the value of standardized tests is already underway,” the UCOP statement said. “In July 2018, President Napolitano requested that UC’s Academic Senate conduct a formal review and assessment based on factual, historical data.”

According to UCOP, a Task Force has recently been established to “determine whether SAT and ACT tests are useful measures of academic aptitude and to assess the impact of these tests on the admissions process.” UCOP has also contacted the organizations who administer these tests.

Additionally, private college admissions consultants would be required to register with the Office of the Secretary of State if they generate more than $5,000 in annual income. A “stakeholder group” would determine how the industry was being regulated within a year of registration.

The bill package also aims to prevent fraudulent tax write-offs, meaning that any individual named in the current college admissions scandal “may not deduct related charitable donations from state income taxes.”

“The recent admissions scandal has revealed the utter lack of oversight involved in an industry where bad actors have been able to thrive,” Low said in a statement. “This bill will finally put a check on bad actors while still allowing legitimate firms to stay in business under state regulations and guidelines.”

And in the wake of this scandal, UCOP wants to make sure that it stays “proactive, transparent and accountable” to keep another scandal of this caliper from happening again.

“We are making every effort to take a critical, hard look at our own practices and to keep our students and alumni, the Legislature and the public, informed of our continued investigations and reforms,” the UCOP statement said. “We look forward to working with legislators to address their concerns and proposals.”

Written by: Rebecca Bihn-Wallace — campus@theaggie.org


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