Assemblymembers Propose College Admissions Reform & Oversight

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Assemblymembers Propose College Admissions Reform & Oversight

Legislative package & audit request come in response to recent scandal

(Sacramento, CA) – The college admissions process must be fair, with no student gaining advantage over another because of their family’s wealth or social connections. Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Orange County), and Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) unveiled a legislative package today aimed at reforming the system and curtailing abuse. The proposals come after an Assembly Budget Subcommittee hearing on higher education was held last week, where lawmakers discussed the recent college admissions scandal.

“For every student admitted through bribery, there was an honest and talented student that was rejected,” said McCarty. “This legislative package of college admissions reforms will ensure that there are adequate checks and balances to catch fraudsters, but more importantly to protect the sanctity of the admissions process.”

“This is about fairness and equity. We raise our kids to believe that if they work hard, all opportunities will be open to them.  But that’s just not true when it comes to college,” said Ting. “We must close the side door that enables privileged families to get their children into elite colleges, taking the place of deserving students.”

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

“California taxpayers should not be unwitting donors to criminal actions of bribery and tax evasion,” said Quirk-Silva.

“Here in California, we have created a world-class higher education system rooted in the idea that quality public education is one of the greatest equalizers in our society. The news over the past several days has shaken the public’s confidence in our system. Qualified students should have equal opportunity to access these institutions of higher learning, no matter where they’re from, or how much money their family makes.  As a graduate of our UC system, I am proud to stand with Assemblymembers McCarty and Ting in working to identify and address the inherent flaws in our admissions process and restore faith in fair access for all California students,” said Boerner Horvath.

The proposals include:

  • Strengthening Checks and Balances on Special Admissions: Requires any special admission, also known as “admission by exception,” to have approval from a minimum of three administrative staff members prior to a student’s acceptance. That includes the Chancellor/President, the Vice President/Vice Chancellor/Provost/Admissions Director and the staff or faculty member recommending the special admit.
  • Banning Preferential Admissions for Donors & Alumni/Ting (AB 697): Prohibits any California college or university from granting preferential admissions to applicants related to the institution’s donors or alumni, or risk exclusion from the Cal Grant program.
  • Phasing Out Use of the SAT & ACT: Requests the California State University and University of California systems to conduct a study of the usefulness, effectiveness and need for the SAT and ACT to determine student admissions.
  • Regulating College Admissions Consultants: Directs private college admissions firms and consultants to register with the Secretary of State’s Office, if they generate more than $5,000 in annual income. A stakeholder group will determine regulations for the industry within a year of registry’s enactment.
  • Prohibiting Fraudulent Tax Write-Offs: Provides that any taxpayer named in the complaints stemming from the college admissions scandal and found to be guilty may not deduct related charitable donations from state income taxes. If a deduction related to the fraud conviction has already been claimed, it must be refunded to the state along with paying a fine.
  • Auditing Risks of Fraud in Admissions: Calls upon the State Auditor to review risks of fraud in the University of California’s admissions processes, with a close look at the admissions process for student athletes and other special admissions. The audit will also examine admissions processes and procedures at California’s public universities.  

McCarty, Ting, Low, Quirk-Silva, and Boerner Horvath expect the proposals to be heard in committee after the Spring Recess.

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