The real admissions scandal: Not enough access for qualified students

Public outrage continues to swirl over the recent news that wealthy parents have been buying their unqualified children access to the nation’s elite universities, but there’s an arguably more disturbing scandal that continues to plague higher education: lack of access for qualified students.

It is a problem much larger than the unqualified wealthy purchasing access at elite, mostly private institutions. It’s happening right here in the CSU, with too few spots available for qualified students, many of whom are low-income, students of color, and the first in their families to attend college.

At campuses here in the CSU, more than 30,000 qualified students are being denied a chance at a college degree. What’s worse, at least one of our campuses is trying to make it more difficult to gain admittance. At Cal State LA, Campus President William Covino is planning to declare impaction, which will disproportionately hurt low-income students of color in the surrounding community.

As California State Assembly Speaker Rendon, a CSU Fullerton alum, writes in an editorial for the Sacramento Bee, “The college admissions cheating scandal is a juicy crisis of real importance, but if we want equal opportunity for college education, the scandal shouldn’t be our focus. The way I see it, the dramatic cheating revelation is kind of like a big crash on the highway. Everyone wants to slow down to look at what happened but, for most of us, the important thing is to think about where we’re going.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who along with Rendon is an ex officio member of the CSU Board of Trustees, sees this as a broader issue as well, as an article in the LA Times summarized: Newsom said the college admission system favors all “people of wealth and privilege,” not just those who were indicted in the current scandal.

We must ensure that students who want to receive a quality education are able to do so, and that the State of California upholds the promises made in the Master Plan—that is the real equity conversation that must happen in the wake of this admissions scandal.