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The University of California
Qualified Students Face an Inconsistent and Unfair Admissions System That Has Been Improperly Influenced by Relationships and Monetary Donations

Report Number: 2019-113

University of California

August 27, 2020

Ms. Elaine M. Howle
California State Auditor
621 Capitol Mall, Suite 1200
Sacramento, California  95814

Dear Ms. Howle:

Thank you for the opportunity to review and respond to the draft audit report on the University of California’s admissions practices.


The University is committed to safeguarding the integrity of its admissions practices. We hold ourselves to the highest standards and will take prompt action to address issues raised in the State Auditor’s draft report. Many of the draft report’s recommendations are similar to those that our internal audits identified and presented to the Board of Regents over the past year, and that UC campuses and the Office of the President have largely implemented. The draft report identified important issues that will help us in addressing any ongoing problems.


I have zero tolerance on matters of integrity, and will do everything I can to ensure inappropriate admissions do not happen on any of our campuses. To that end, I appreciate the State Auditor’s assistance in providing the relevant underlying data and information supporting the audit’s conclusions. The University will then be able to take additional appropriate action as necessary and maintain the highest standards in our admissions processes.

I sincerely appreciate the time and resources the State Auditor’s office has committed to helping us improve and strengthen our admissions policies and processes.


Michael V. Drake, MD



To provide clarity and perspective, we are commenting on the university’s response to our audit. The numbers below correspond to the numbers we have placed in the margin of the university’s response.


The university’s internal audit, and its recommendations, did not address significant aspects of the admissions process that we reviewed during our audit. Furthermore, our recommendations are stronger than those made by the university’s internal audit and address serious deficiencies that it did not identify. Left unaddressed, these issues will continue to harm qualified applicants who apply to the university.

Although both audits addressed the potential for inappropriate influence in the admissions process, as we state earlier in the report, the university’s audit did not detect the ways in which staff from the development office and other university staff inappropriately influenced admissions decisions at UC Berkeley. Further, the internal audit did not review or make any recommendations related to training and monitoring of application readers. Our review in this area—the details of which we describe earlier in the report—found the inconsistency among readers negatively affects many thousands of applicants each year. Finally, the internal audit did not include an examination of whether the Office of the President has conducted sufficient and appropriate oversight of the admissions process. Our review found that the Office of the President has not adequately safeguarded the admissions process, and we recommend that it conduct regular audits of its campuses.


As we describe earlier in the report, the Office of the President has allowed campuses to respond to its internal audit recommendations by each developing their own corrective actions. Further, the Office of the President has not reviewed the campuses’ implementation of those corrective actions. As a result, the actions campuses have taken have been inadequate and inconsistent. For example, our report describes how UCLA decided not to implement the Office of the President’s recommendation to adopt a policy prohibiting communication between development and admissions offices about prospective students. The inadequacies in the campuses’ implementation of the internal audit recommendations led us to recommend, in our report, that the Office of the President directly monitor the way campuses address those recommendations—an oversight activity it had not planned to perform.


We look forward to reviewing the actions the Office of the President takes to address the deficiencies in the university’s admissions process that we identify in our report. During our audit we had several discussions with each of the campuses and the Office of the President wherein we described the deficiencies we found, the information we had reviewed to come to our conclusions, and our recommendations for correcting the identified problems. These discussions provided the university with sufficient information to address the areas of inconsistency and improper influence in its admissions process. Throughout the finalization of this report we discussed with the university its requests for additional detailed information from our review. Before we published this report, we provided additional information to the university.

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