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UC Schools Admit Dozens Of Students Based On Donor And Family Ties, Audit Finds

Royce Hall is pictured at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a recent file photo. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist/KPCC)
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UCLA and three other UC schools unfairly admitted at least 64 students in recent years as favors to donors, and family and friends of university staff, according to a new state audit. Most of the students were white and wealthy, the audit found.

Of these students, 22 were admitted as athletes, despite their lack of qualifications to compete.

"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," State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter attached to the audit.


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The auditor also found that UCLA and UC Berkeley admitted thousands of applicants who appeared less qualified than others who didn't get in. The auditor's report says these schools lack specific admissions criteria, and that whether or not a student gets accepted is often left up to the person reviewing the application and their personal biases.

"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.

The audit targeted UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara.


To remedy the problem, the report says campuses should:

  • Double-check admissions of athletes to make sure their athletic talents warrant admission and that no improper donations may have influenced their admission.
  • Make sure no one person has the authority to make a final decision on admissions.
  • Prohibit communication about applicants between a campus's fundraising wing and admissions officers.
  • Establish and implement a methodology for selecting applicants, including a rationale for admitting applicants with less competitive ratings than others.
  • Block campuses from seeing information about candidates that could bias their evaluations.
  • Begin conducting regular audits of admissions processes at all UC undergraduate campuses, to be carried out by the UC Office of the President.
In response to the audit, UC President Michael V. Drake said in a statement:
"I take the findings and recommendations very seriously and will do all I can to prevent inappropriate admissions at UC. I have zero tolerance in matters of compromised integrity.

"The University will swiftly address the concerns the State Auditor raised. Furthermore, individuals involved in improper activities will be disciplined appropriately."

He said the university system would map out corrective actions in the coming weeks.

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