UCSB Isn’t Exempt from Unfair Admissions Policies

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Illustration by Alyssa Long | Staff Illustrator

Alexander Ortiz

Last week UCSB released acceptance letters to future Gauchos, capping off a tumultuous admissions season that has been rocked by accusations that a number of wealthy parents (including Full House star Lori Loughlin) essentially bought their children’s acceptances into prestigious universities such as USC and UCLA.

However, bias that favors the wealthy has been a historical and current part of college admissions at many schools, including UCSB.

This scandal has sparked discussion on the history of systematically elitist processes for college admission, but it seems as though only one television star’s explicit involvement in her daughter’s acceptance to USC gave the media compelling enough content to make it a leading story.

The fact that in this scandal alone, fifty people, including employees of university admissions, standardized testing monitors, and university coaches, were all involved is far more concerning. This particular scandal exposed an organized scheme run by people in the education system. This does not help public opinion that university systems are solely money hungry institutions that run like corporations.

While there have not been any noted illegal schemes at UCSB, the school has previously been accused of unfair admissions processes that favored the wealthy and are potentially still active today.

According to an article published by Forbes, for about ten years the UC system has notably accepted far more out-of-state students than in-state. This has led to statewide concern that the UC’s unfairly favor out-of-state students because they pay more for tuition than in-state students. Furthermore, out-of-state students are a more lucrative source of income for UC’s. UCSB is one of these campuses.

According to Forbes, in 2018 UCSB admission rates showed that in-state admittance made up 29 percent of students, while 47 percent of students were out of state. While in recent years the state of California has called for more in-state students to be admitted, the UC campuses still show much higher admittance for out-of-state students.

Last year the L.A. Times reported that UCSB professors were having issues with international students whose English speaking and writing skills seem underdeveloped, which are usually tested for before admittance to ensure the student’s academic success at UCSB.

As of 2011 international student acceptance grew exponentially for purposes of building diversity on UC campuses. One example highlighting the growth is the acceptance of 2,632 Chinese students on 2008 to 22,325 in 2017.

It’s possible that students were being accepted under lower test standards for the money they bring to UCSB. Like out-of-state students, international students pay much larger tuition fees. This may explain the acceptance of those that did not meet the standards of English speaking and writing required to attend.

The USC admissions scandals were shocking and garnered mass attention. UC’s have been systematically admitting wealthier students for years yet they are not faced with the same level of scrutiny.

Although the USC incident used far more illegal methods of admittance fraud, are UCSB admissions issues that much more different? It’s a question that answers itself when noting ways in which wealthy students have overall advantages that come into play when getting accepted to college.

Many colleges in the U.S. still have legacy admissions in which the students are given a more likely acceptance for having a family member or members who are alumni of that campus. UCSB does not have legacy admissions processes but does have legacy based scholarships.

Even excluding the problematic information explained here, universities are still inherently more accessible to the rich.

In an interview in a March 2019 article for New Haven Register, the Dean of UCSB’s Gevirtz School of Education, Jeffrey Milem said that “Kids who come from means. . .have historically always been advantaged in the admissions process. They almost always attend better schools . . . have access to test-taking courses, they have access to hiring admissions consultants to work with them to develop their file for admission and help them craft their responses to essay prompts.”

“By attending wealthier schools,” Milem continued, “they have more of an opportunity to take advanced placement classes … which factors into admissions decisions at institutions with a highly selective admissions process”

There have been systems put in place like affirmative action, financial aid, and Cal Grant funding that make college today far more accessible for minorities and those living in lower income households. It’s great to see progression towards equal opportunity for all, but that feeling can be disheartened by incidents such as the USC admission scandal.

Knowing that there were over 55 people using their positions to unfairly get students into college makes me wonder how many institutions are possibly still using unfair admissions policies. It’s also a valuable moment to question problematic admissions processes at UCSB. The USC incident is an important opportunity for all of us to recognize disparities in our educational institutions and hold those institutions accountable.