California lawmakers push for reforms to prevent college admissions abuse

Some California lawmakers are proposing several new laws in the wake of the college admissions scandal.

The proposals unveiled Thursday by a group of Democratic lawmakers include banning preferential admissions for donors and alumni, evaluating the phase out of the SAT and ACT exams, and regulating private admissions consultants.

The six proposals are intended to reform and curtail abuse in the college admissions process, the lawmakers said at a press conference.

Fifty people — including Hollywood stars, top CEOs, college coaches and standardized test administrators — are accused of taking part in the scheme to cheat on tests and admit students to leading institutions as athletes, regardless of their abilities.

“We’ve all watched in complete disgust by the outright fraud committed in the recent college admissions scandal across the country and in California,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. “Further, it stings even more because so much of this was based in California.”

He noted that 25 of the 33 families and that 10 of the 17 coaches and university officials were based in California.

Many of the proposals would affect the state’s public university and college systems. The University of California enrolls 238,000 students.

Here are the six proposals:

This measure would require each special admission, known as “admission by exception” to have at least three administrative staff members’ approval before the student is accepted. This would introduce checks and balances into the process, McCarty said. If a University of California water polo athlete is admitted, he said, “We should [make sure] 1) they know how to swim and 2) they actually play water polo.” He said this would be a triple check to make sure there are no “fradulent side-door admits.”

This bill would ban any California college or university from granting preferential admissions to donors or children of alumni. This would apply to both public and private colleges in the state. Assemblymember Phil Ting likened it to “closing an express lane …” to “make sure there’s an even playing field for everyone.”

The resolution would request the California State University and University of California systems to conduct a study on the necessity of the SAT and ACTs in determining student admissions. The study is to explore the phaseout of those standardized tests from use in the admissions process. McCarty said the tests devalue the academic potential of lower-income students and give the wealthy advantages.

This proposal seeks to regulate college admissions consultants by having them register with the Secretary of State’s Office. Assemblymember Evan Low said it’s about bringing transparency to these firms and consultants.

This measure would prohibit any California taxpayers who were named in the college admissions scheme and found guilty from deducting their related charitable donations from state income taxes. Parents accused of taking part in William Rick Singer’s college admissions cheating scheme reportedly paid for his services in the form of donations to his nonprofit, the Key Worldwide Foundation. Any deduction already taken must be refunded along with a fine.

This measure would call for a state auditor to look at the admissions processes for student athletes and other special admits in the University of California, as well as the admissions processes at the state’s public universities. Lawmakers said the goal is to improve oversight and determine which admission process requires further scrutiny.