UC admissions scandal discourages qualified students

Alijah Hernandez, Reporter

In September, a state performance audit revealed University of California admissions officials accepted 64 students solely based on family ties and monetary donations to their respective universities from 2013 to 2019.

Though this number is a low percentage of the total number of admitted students over the span of six years, biased admissions should not occur whatsoever and are completely unfair to those who work hard to earn good academic standings in high school.

“By admitting 64 noncompetitive applicants, the university undermined the fairness and integrity of its admissions process and deprived more qualified students of the opportunity for admission,” California Auditor Elaine M. Howle wrote in a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom.

A Los Angeles Times article said most of the students that were admitted to UC Los Angeles, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara due to family or financial ties, were white.

At least half of these students had an annual family income of $150,000 or more.

Coming from a low-income household and being the first in my family to go to college, I put immense time and effort into my high school work to feel that I earned a seat in the college classroom.

All the long hours studying, stressing over grades and finding ways to study for the SAT were done for the sole purpose of creating a competitive college application.

To hear that some students were basically granted a free pass into these schools because of their money and connections is a slap in the face for students who actually work hard for the same opportunities.

The worst part is the highest ranking UC schools–UC Berkeley and UCLA–have no formal protocols in place that provide standards for which applicants to admit.

“Nevertheless, both of those campuses admitted thousands of applicants whose records demonstrated that they were less qualified than other applicants who were denied admission,” Howle wrote in the letter.

She also highlighted that competitive students were potentially overlooked due to failures to properly train admission staff, who review and rate applications.

“We found that staff were sometimes overly strict or overly lenient in their review of applications, thereby making the applicants’ chances of admission unduly dependent on the individual staff who rated them rather than on the students’ qualifications,” Howle wrote.

Students were either unfairly denied or leniently accepted, which emphasizes the need for reform in their admissions process.

There is no excuse for students being accepted to semi-prestigious universities solely through monetary bribes and connections.

In an email interview, Karen Castillo, a junior at UCLA, said she was frustrated with the lack of fairness in the UC system’s admissions process, however, she was not surprised.

She said she suspected financial biases, considering she sees students on campus wearing what she describes as the most expensive brands, driving the most expensive cars while simultaneously affording private tutors.

“However, what I suspected became valid and that validity reinforced my anger. The anger that’s been growing knowing that I worked so hard to get into the school of my dreams just so the student sitting next to me can pay some extra bucks to get in,” Castillo said. “But in the same way that I am angry, I am proud. Proud because I know I earned my way in there meanwhile others had to compensate with extra dollars.”

The audit exposed the truth behind the UC admission system and shed an invaluable light on the difference between students who have every right to be there and students who bought their way in.

According to the same L.A. Times article, wealth and connections are much less frequently used as admissions bargains in the UC system, as compared to prestigious private universities.

According to U.S. News and World Reports, California Lutheran University accepts 71% of applicants, half of which have an SAT score between 1070 and 1250, “however, one quarter of admitted applicants achieved scores above these ranges and one quarter scored below these ranges.”

Comparatively, UCLA accepts 12% of its students with half of admitted students’ SAT scores ranging from 1280 to 1530.

Universities have a duty to uphold fairness and equality when it comes to accepting students, and stricter protocols need to be in place to ensure every student is given equal consideration in the admissions process.

“It’s truly disheartening because it comes to show that the education system is broken and corrupt, and I hope that this is the end of a black era and the beginning of transparency and equality in the college world,” Castillo said.

To prevent unfair admissions processes in the future, universities should create a document that clearly defines what a qualified student is, in accordance with their mission statement.

This way, admission employees would be following university guidelines as opposed to using their personal judgment.

A form should also be sent out to ensure admissions counselors do not have any ties with the student applications they are evaluating. 

Everyone deserves a fair and equal chance.

Our country is founded on the principles of equality and fairness, so there is no excuse for universities not to embody the same principles.