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- Appendix A—The University Has Not Addressed Our Recommendation to Change Its “Compare Favorably” Policy
- Appendix B—Statistics on the Diversity of Freshman Applicants Whom the University Admitted for Academic Years 2017–18 Through 2019–20
- Appendix C—Scope and Methodology
The University Has Not Addressed Our Recommendation to Change Its “Compare Favorably” Policy
In March 2016, our office reported that the university had disadvantaged California resident applicants by admitting nonresident applicants with lower qualifications than those of the upper half of admitted residents.The University of California: Its Admissions and Financial Decisions Have Disadvantaged California Resident Students, Report 2015‑107, March 2016. These admissions decisions resulted from a change that BOARS made in 2011 to the university’s nonresident admissions policies. Specifically, BOARS amended the policies to specify that instead of demonstrating stronger admissions credentials than resident applicants, nonresident applicants need to “compare favorably” to residents to gain admission to the university. Before it adopted the compare favorably policy, BOARS’s meeting minutes reflected a discussion about how enrolling more nonresidents was justified because the university enrolls greater numbers of resident students than those for whom the Legislature provides funding. This discussion also acknowledged that campuses increased nonresident enrollment for the revenue that nonresident tuition generates. In our report, we recommended that the university replace its compare favorably policy with a standard that would require nonresidents to have admissions credentials that place them in the upper half of the residents it admits—an approach that we determined was consistent with the intent of the Master Plan.
We made that recommendation because we concluded that by adopting the compare favorably standard, the university had degraded the access that it provided to well‑qualified resident applicants in exchange for offering admission to nonresidents who often had weaker academic qualifications. Specifically, the report found that during the 10‑year period ending in academic year 2014–15, resident enrollment had increased by 10 percent while nonresident enrollment had increased by 432 percent. Further, the university had admitted nearly 61,000 nonresidents whose unweighted GPA scores fell below the upper half of admitted residents during academic years 2006–07 through 2014–15, and it admitted 9,400 nonresidents whose SAT reading and math scores fell below the upper half of admitted residents’ scores. The university disagreed with our recommendation and asserted that the compare favorably policy met its primary responsibility to residents. We stand by our recommendation because our review of this issue during this audit demonstrates that the university has continued to admit nonresident applicants with lower qualifications than the residents it admits.
Our previous review also found that the university generally admitted nonresident students with average grade point averages and standardized test scores that were lower than those of resident students. The university asserted to us that using these two academic metrics to determine the qualifications of applicants does not necessarily correlate with admissions decisions and that instead the university uses a comprehensive review process to evaluate applicants. As we discuss in this report, the result of the comprehensive review process is a rating that readers assign to each application, and that rating represents a campus’s full consideration of an applicant’s accomplishments. Therefore, during this audit, we used the comprehensive review ratings that readers had assigned to applications to assess the relative qualifications of the resident and nonresident applicants they admitted.
Nonresident Enrollment by Campus in Academic Year 2018–19
UC Berkeley: 24.5%
UC Davis: 18.1%
UC Irvine: 18.5%
UC Merced: 0.5%
UC Riverside: 3.7%
UC San Diego: 21.8%
UC Santa Barbara: 16.0%
UC Santa Cruz: 10.4%
Source: University’s data on nonresident enrollment by campus.
Campuses admitted most of the applicants to whom they assigned the highest ratings, regardless of their residency status. However, nonresident applicants at UCLA and UC San Diego who received ratings from the middle of the rating scale were more likely to be admitted than resident applicants with the same ratings. For example, at UCLA’s College of Letters and Science, nonresident applicants from the United States whom readers rated as Recommend for Admission were almost three times more likely to be admitted than California resident applicants who received the same rating. Similar also to the results of our last audit, our review shows that from academic years 2017–18 through 2019–20, the campuses denied thousands of resident applicants admission while simultaneously admitting nonresident applicants with lower ratings.
University‑imposed caps on nonresident admission do not prevent the campuses from admitting less qualified nonresidents. In 2017 the Regents implemented a policy to limit nonresident enrollment to 18 percent for each of the five undergraduate campuses that had not yet grown their nonresident populations to that size. Consequently, each of these campuses can continue to grow the size of their nonresident student populations up to 18 percent. In contrast, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine had already enrolled more than 18 percent of nonresidents when the Regents imposed the cap. For these campuses, the Regents’ policy froze nonresident enrollment at their academic year 2017–18 levels. The text box shows each campuses’ nonresident enrollment proportion during academic year 2018–19.
Statistics on the Diversity of Freshman Applicants Whom the University Admitted for Academic Years 2017–18 Through 2019–20
The Audit Committee asked us to report a variety of demographic information for the students that the university admitted from academic years 2017–18 through 2019–20. The Audit Committee further requested that we report on the diversity of applicants admitted because of donations, influence, or legacy status, as well as the categories of applicants admitted by exception. Figures B.1, B.2, B.3,and B.4 provide the information that the Audit Committee requested.
Diversity of Admitted Students by Campus, Academic Years 2017–18 Through 2019–20
Source: Analysis of applications and admissions data regarding freshman applicants.
Notes: In this figure and the figures that follow we generally use the terminology contained in the Office of the President’s applications and admissions data when referring to gender, ethnicity, and other categories of student diversity.
Diversity of Students Admitted Due to Inappropriate Factors, Academic Years 2013–14 Through 2019–20
Source: Analysis of applications and admissions data regarding freshman applicants
Reason for Ineligibility for Students Admitted by Exception, by Campus, Academic Years 2017–18 Through 2019–20
Source: Analysis of applications and admissions data regarding California resident freshman applicants that UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego selected for admission for academic years 2017–18 through 2019–20 and whom did not meet university eligibility requirements.
* The majority of these students did not have a GPA in the applications data. Students may not have a GPA in the data because their high schools use a grading system that does not easily convert to the standard scale or the students did not provide enough information on their applications to calculate their grade point average.
In our March 2016 Report 2015‑107 (The University of California: Its Admissions and Financial Decisions Have Disadvantaged California Resident Students), we reported that from academic years 2005–06 through 2014–15, the university admitted increasing numbers of nonresident students. The figure below presents trends in nonresident admission since that time.
Residency Trends of Admitted Students, Academic Years 2015–16 Through 2019–20
Source: Analysis of applications and admissions data regarding freshman applicants selected for admission.
Scope and Methodology
The Audit Committee directed the California State Auditor to review the university’s admissions practices. Specifically, the Audit Committee requested that we review areas of the admissions process related to fraud prevention, inappropriate influence on admissions decisions, and the use of admission by exception and admission on the basis of special talent. The table below lists the objectives that the Audit Committee approved and the methods we used to address them.
Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit objectives.
Reviewed relevant laws, regulations, and other background materials applicable to the university and its admissions processes.
Review and evaluate the university’s systemwide admissions policies and practices, as well as the results of the university’s internal investigations.
For at least the UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego campuses, assess admissions policies and practices by doing the following:
For at least the past three years, identify how many students UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego admitted under the university’s special admissions policy, with a focus on students admitted through the identification of a special talent or achievement. For those students, do the following, to the extent possible:
Review and assess university and campus policies and practices related to interacting with other entities involved in the admission process including, but not limited to, the College Board, ACT, and private admission consultants.
Incorporated the procedures related to this objective into objectives 3 and 4b by reviewing the process that each campus uses to make admissions decisions and assessing those processes for risk.
Evaluate the sufficiency of steps taken by the university in response to admission‑related recommendations in the California State Auditor’s March 2016 audit report (Report 2015‑107) as well as other California State Auditor recommendations, if applicable.
Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.
Source: Audit Committee’s audit request number 2019-113, planning documents, and information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method.
* We expanded our review of the prospective student‑athlete admissions processes to include UC Santa Barbara.
Assessment of Data Reliability
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of computer‑processed information that we use to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations. In performing this audit, we relied on various electronic data to evaluate the campuses’ application review processes and to identify the academic qualifications and diversity of students who applied and were admitted or denied admission. Specifically, we obtained application and admission data from the Office of the President and application review data from four campuses—UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara.
To evaluate these data, we reviewed existing information about the data, interviewed university and campus staff knowledgeable about the data, and performed electronic testing of the data. As a result, we identified limitations with the data. Specifically, the Office of the President uses self‑reported information from each application. However, this information is not necessarily updated in the data if the Office of the President, or the campuses subsequently identify discrepancies. Therefore, we found that the Office of the President’s and the campuses’ data were of undetermined reliability for our purposes. Although this determination may affect the precision of the numbers we present, there is sufficient evidence in total to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.