Bay Area lawmaker proposes reforms to college admissions following scandal

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When students apply to college in California, state lawmakers want the process to be fair.

"We want to put faith back into the admissions policy, that if you work hard, you have a fair shot. Because right now, you don't," says State Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).

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Assemblyman Ting joined Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Orange County), and Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) on Thursday to unveil a legislative package aimed at what they call, "reforming the system and curtailing abuse."

"For every student admitted through bribery, there was an honest and talented student that was denied an opportunity to go to college," says Assemblyman McCarthy at Thursday morning's press conference.

AB-697 is made up of five key proposals:

Strengthening Checks and Balances on Special Admissions: Requires any special admission, also known as "admission by exception," to have approval from a minimum of three administrative staff members prior to a student's acceptance. That includes the Chancellor/President, the Vice President/Vice Chancellor/Provost/Admissions Director and the staff or faculty member recommending the special admit.

Banning Preferential Admissions for Donors & Alumni: Prohibits any California college or university from granting preferential admissions to applicants related to the institution's donors or alumni, or risk exclusion from the Cal Grant program.

Phasing Out Use of the SAT & ACT: Requests the California State University and University of California systems to conduct a study of the usefulness, effectiveness and need for the SAT and ACT to determine student admissions.

Regulating College Admissions Consultants: Directs private college admissions firms and consultants to register with the Secretary of State's Office, if they generate more than $5,000 in annual income. A stakeholder group will determine regulations for the industry within a year of registry's enactment.

Prohibiting Fraudulent Tax Write-Offs: Provides that any taxpayer named in the complaints stemming from the college admissions scandal and found to be guilty may not deduct related charitable donations from state income taxes. If a deduction related to the fraud conviction has already been claimed, it must be refunded to the state along with paying a fine.

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Ting admits that legislation alone won't solve all the problems, but says it's a step in the right direction.

"You have so many colleges that look at Cal Grant and low-income students. But we don't even know how many donor kids we've taken or how many alumni kids we've taken. We want to make sure there is an even playing field," says Ting.

Many students seem to support the proposals.

"I think that teaching to the test is just normally not a very good way of educating students," says University of San Francisco junior Kate Ashman.

Ashman plays volleyball with her teammate Camille Araujo at USF. Both women say they support the legislation, especially doing away with standardized testing.

"I think GPA is a much better marker because it shows the overall work across time," says Araujo.

Over at San Francisco State University, student Emily Curiel likes the idea, but is skeptical.

"I'm mean, you can try, but I always feel like there are loopholes around political (issues)," says Curiel.

High school senior Julian Kuo-Gross is from New York. He spent part of the day touring the campus with his parents. He says any attempt to clear up the system is worth the effort.

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"I don't think it'll make anything worse. I don't know the extent to which it will make things better. But it can't do any harm. I think it's a good thing," says Kuo-Gross.

The bill will be introduced on the assembly floor at the end of April.
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