Equitable College Admissions
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
As we wrap up graduation season, I want to congratulate all of my constituents who have graduated from high school, college, graduate school or another educational program.
Many of our graduating high school and community college students, along with numerous parents, recently had to go through the process of applying to college. Unfortunately, it is disheartening to see confidence in that process shaken by recent scandal.
Earlier this year, the FBI released to the public initial results of an investigation known as “operation varsity blues,” which revealed that wealthy and connected parents broke the law by committing fraud and bribing officials to accept their children into elite universities. The scandal also shed light on the legal ways that some are advantaged in the admissions process.
An applicant’s relation to an alumnus or donor to a college often comes into consideration. According to a November/December 2013 Stanford Magazine article, every legacy application is read by two people, versus just one person for other applications. In a September/October 2013 article in the same magazine, the then-president was quoted as saying that the admissions rate for children of alumni “is two or three times higher than the general population.” Families who don’t have these advantages can feel that the odds are stacked against them.
As the proud son of immigrants who was able to take advantage of the educational opportunities afforded to me growing up in this state, I want to be sure that my daughters’ generation and the generations to come will have those same opportunities. That is why I have introduced Assembly Bill 697, which aims to make the college admissions process more equitable, fair and transparent for all Californians who participate.
The bill, AB-697, would require colleges that provide preferential treatment to applicants related to an alumnus or donor to disclose the practice, if they participate in the Cal Grant Program. The Cal Grant Program was created to help students pay for their education without having to pay the money back, and it has unlocked opportunity for countless students in our state.
Cal Grants are funded by your tax dollars and they can be used at many private institutions located in our state. In the 2017-18 school year, $237 million in Cal Grant funds went to private colleges; the largest recipient was the University of Southern California, with $21 million. Coincidentally, in “operation varsity blues,” USC was named as a school where athletic directors and coaches were bribed to falsely identify applicants as recruits.
Students and their parents work too hard and sacrifice too much to not have faith that they will be treated fairly in the admissions process. So far, my colleagues in the Legislature have agreed; as it stands with AB-697 passed out of the Assembly and on to the Senate, it has received zero “no” votes. I hope you will join me to support this legislation so that all of our college-bound students get a fair shake.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.