State auditor: UC wrongly admitted well-connected students

FILE - In this May 10, 2018, file photo, students walk past Sather Gate on the University of California at Berkeley campus in Berkeley, Calif. A California state audit found that the University of California wrongly admitted at least 64 wealthy students over the past six years as "favors to donors, family, and friends." California State Auditor Elaine Howle also found in the audit released Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, that campus staff falsely designated 22 of the applicants as student-athlete recruits because of donations from or as favors to well-connected families. The University of California, Berkeley, admitted 42 less-qualified applicants based on connections to staff, leadership, and donors. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
FILE - In this May 10, 2018, file photo, students walk past Sather Gate on the University of California at Berkeley campus in Berkeley, Calif. A California state audit found that the University of California wrongly admitted at least 64 wealthy students over the past six years as "favors to donors, family, and friends." California State Auditor Elaine Howle also found in the audit released Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, that campus staff falsely designated 22 of the applicants as student-athlete recruits because of donations from or as favors to well-connected families. The University of California, Berkeley, admitted 42 less-qualified applicants based on connections to staff, leadership, and donors. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN FRANCISCO – The University of California “inappropriately admitted" at least 64 wealthy, mostly white students over the past six years as “favors to donors, family, and friends," according to an audit released Tuesday that found hundreds more questionable cases of students accepted to the top UC schools.

Among them were a student whose family was friends with a member of the Board of Regents, the child of a major donor and an applicant who babysat for a colleague of a former admissions director, according to the report from the California State Auditor.

“This is a significant problem that the university needs to deal with,” State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a telephone interview. “Let's hope this isn't occurring across the country, or at other universities in California. But it is very concerning."

The audit examined admissions policies and practices over the six academic years from 2013-2014 to 2018-2019 at four of the UC's nine campuses — UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara.

Auditors found that at least 22 applicants were falsely designated as student-athlete recruits “because of donations from or as favors to well-connected families." These students “had little or no athletic skills," Howle said.

The report did not name students, coaches or specific sports but the investigators looked at a mix of teams at each campus, including soccer, crew, golf, water polo, swimming, track and field, women's basketball and men's tennis, the report said.

It identified at least 13 applicants improperly admitted as student athletes to UC Berkeley, four each at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara and one at UC San Diego.

“UC Berkeley really had some significant weaknesses in their admissions process," Howle said. The audit found the elite school admitted 42 applicants who were the children of staff and donors, while denying admission to others who were more qualified.