The role of private donations in college admissions is gaining increased scrutiny in the wake of the high-profile admissions scandal involving big-name Hollywood stars. But an article from the Los Angeles Times details how UCLA, one of the schools implicated in the scandal, knew about families donating for their children’s admission to the school long before the scandal broke.
A high school senior who ran track was admitted to UCLA as a recruited athlete, even though her times were not nearly good enough to warrant recruitment from the school. Her advantage? Her parents could donate a large sum of money to the school.
“The young woman’s admission to UCLA as a recruited athlete — and her parents’ subsequent $100,000 pledge to the athletics program — were detailed in an internal investigation the university completed in July 2014, a year after she began taking classes there,” the article explains.
UCLA’s investigation found that the payment was directly connected to the student’s admission due to its timing and a pledge that the student would only serve as a manager on the track team, a violation of the school’s policies on recruitment and admission.
The difference between this payment and the payments uncovered in the admissions scandal is that this payment was not illegal because the money was donated to UCLA’s athletic program and did not break any laws, according to the article.
The investigation “indicates that UCLA knew about at least two students with limited or nonexistent credentials in their sports who were admitted as athletes,” according to the article.
Donations connected to student admissions ranged across many sports, the article explains:
The report also raised questions about donation-related admissions involving other sports. Families of walk-on athletes in UCLA’s tennis program — it’s unclear if this refers to men, women or both — “made substantial donations to the program under circumstances that might suggest the donations were expected at the time the student was admitted,” according to the report.
The document did not suggest there was evidence that coaches received financial benefits in any of the cases. “The conclusion reached … is that the coaches involved were motivated principally by the expectation of a financial benefit to the University, in violation of Regents policy,” the report said.
UCLA’s investigation revealed just how much college admissions can be subjected to the influences of large donors looking to get their children into prestigious colleges.
“We believe that our process is among the most demanding and thorough in collegiate athletics,” the UCLA athletic director said in a statement. “But, as the recent news illustrates, it is not foolproof.”
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