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New bill targets legacy admissions

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Maydeen Merino
Staff Writer

A bill that aims to curtail colleges’ and universities’ preferential treatment of legacy admissions has been proposed by Assembly member Phil Ting, D–San Fransisco, in response to the recent admissions scandal.

If any colleges were to provide special treatment to students who have relationships with alumni, donors or legacies of those institutions, AB-697 would ensure that institutions would be stripped of Cal Grant funds.

“It’s hurting our Cal Grant students,” said Aram Nadjarian, spokesperson for Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.

“We don’t want anything that can jeopardize their ability to access funds, because a lot of Cal Grant students are coming from the poorest background, but also are some of the smartest students.”

Cal Grants are awarded to 370,494 students, totaling $2.1 billion per year.

“Non-profit and private colleges generally operate on their own, but the state does provide to students from high school that meet certain GPA and income requirements,” said Kevin Cook, associate center director at Public Policy Institution of California.

Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities oppose the bill because it would take away Cal Grants from students.

“What happened was unfortunate with the scandal and it also very limited,” Nadjarian said. “It was a couple of schools and a couple of people, not entire systems.”

Even though the legislation seems to punish colleges for an individual’s mistake, it still provides one way in holding individuals at universities accountable.

“It gives colleges an incentive and an extra reason to make sure there is a very good accountability amongst individuals to not engage in these kind of non equitable practices,” said Nicholas Novello, University of La Verne financial aid director.

The University of La Verne does not show preference to students with relationships to alumni, legacies or donors.

“This (legislation) does not actually change anything that we are doing,” Novello said. “I want to make sure that we do keep our Cal Grant eligibility because without it, students would lose out on that award, and that award is $9,000 per student.”

The California Student Aid Commission, which aims to make higher education available for all California students, identifies any bills that would negatively affect prospective college students, said Bryan Sapp, CSAC spokesperson.

The California Student Aid Commission has not yet taken a position on the bill because the commissioners have not yet able to take a vote.

“Think about the correlation of the student going to school and then leaving to enter the workforce, therefore helping California’s economy,” Sapp said. “By helping the California’s economy, we are thriving as a state and we are providing jobs and resources to a better quality of life, just through the power of education.”

AB-697 is part of a larger bill package response to the admission scandal; its other bills aim to phase out the use of the SAT and ACT, reduce fraud in admissions, and introduce regulation of admissions consultants.

The bill is still in assembly.

Maydeen Merino can be reached at maydeen.merino@laverne.edu.

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