Boerner Horvath, McCarty Announce Legislation Increasing Fairness, Transparency in UC Admissions

Friday, December 18, 2020

SACRAMENTO —  Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty and Tasha Boerner Horvath today announced planned companion legislation to address the most recent California State Auditor report on University of California (UC) admissions practices and recommended reforms.

The bills are in response to a State Auditor report issued on September 22nd of this year based on investigations conducted at four different UC campuses that concluded the University of California “has allowed for improper influence in admissions decisions, and it has not treated applicants fairly or consistently.”  The report from the State Auditor concluded with 12 recommendations, much of which would be included in these two bills. 

“We’ve continued to see the stories in the news since the ‘Varsity Blues’ investigation became public last year, but what this audit revealed was underlying, systemic problems that have created a sometimes capricious admissions process” added Asm. Boerner Horvath, “This isn’t only about the wealthy and well-connected influencing admissions decisions, it’s about students being denied equal opportunity to an education simply because they had a different person review their application than another equally qualified student.  It wouldn’t be acceptable at any institution, let alone our taxpayer-supported public university system.”

Boerner Horvath, who actually authored the audit request and is a UC graduate, is introducing a bill that tackles the overall admissions process, requiring policies and procedures that ensure a fair and impartial admissions process, including training for application reviewers and readers on the consistent and unbiased use of admissions criteria.  These reforms would also include an annual review process to ensure these new requirements are being adhered to and that there is no inappropriate interaction between Admissions and other university departments.

“We must create admissions practices that allow every hardworking, deserving California student a fair shot at earning a seat at the table,” said Asm. McCarty, Chair of Assembly Budget Subcommittee for Education Finance, “By preventing pressure from philanthropic donations and a stricter oversight of athletics, we can provide a fair admissions process for all.” 

McCarty’s bill requires a firewall between admissions staff and a campus’s philanthropy staff to prevent pressure to admit students due to family donations.  The bill also requires admissions staff to verify a student athlete’s athletic ability or talent prior to admissions and follow-up after admissions to ensure student participation in that sport. 

While both authors acknowledge there have been assurances and actions taken by the UC to address issues raised since they first came to light last year, what the State Audit reveals is that more significant reforms are needed to address the worst of the abuses relative to influencing admissions decisions, as well as deal with inconsistent and unfair admissions processes overall.

Both bills will start their path through the Legislature in the Assembly, beginning with the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.

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