CA Gov. Gavin Newsom signs AB 697, addresses college admissions

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 697 Friday, a bill that requires the CSU Board of Trustees and the UC Board of Regents to share whether they provide any form of preferential treatment within their admissions process to applicants on the basis of their relationships to donors or alumni.

This bill came in light of the recent college admissions scandals that affected schools nationwide. Under AB 697, if an institution is found to provide preferential treatment, the institution will be required to report specified admissions and enrollment information. This bill will go into effect Jan. 2020.

“This bill is about fairness and equity. We raise our kids to believe that if they work hard, all opportunities will be open to them. But that’s just not true when it comes to college,” Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said in an email. “We must close the side door that enables privileged families to get their children into elite colleges and take spots away from deserving students.”

This information would include the number of applicants who were offered a spot in the institution and those who decided to enroll. Beginning June 2020, the bill will require schools to submit these reports on a yearly basis through 2024.

Sarah McBride, spokesperson for the University of California Office of the President, said in an email that AB 697 does not impact the UC system.

“According to our analysis, AB 697 does not impact UC,” McBride said in the email. “As a public institution, and according to long-established UC admissions policy, we do not grant preferential admission to the children of alumni or donors. In fact, this is explicitly stated in our longstanding UC Board of Regents policy.”

Ting said if schools, such as those in the UC system, claim they do not give preferential treatment to students, they will still have to provide the report — but will not need to turn in more detailed data.

AB 697 is just one of a handful of bills aimed at improving the college admissions process, according to Ting. Newsom also signed two other bills to ensure integrity in college admissions: AB 136 and AB 1383.

AB 136, written by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, will prevent anyone found guilty in the admissions scandal from taking tax deductions for donations made to the charities involved.

The third bill, AB 1383 —  written by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento — strengthens the admission by exception practice to require at least three campus administrators to approve admission for each applicant being considered for an exception.

These three bills were not meant to solve the problems presented by the college admission scandals overnight, according to Ting, but to move toward more fairness and equity.

“I believe the bills the Governor signed are steps in the right direction. We may need to do more and will consider that when we reconvene in January,” Ting said in an email.

Contact Olivia González Britt at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Oliviagbritt.