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The nationwide Varsity Blues scandal posed an important question about college admissions: As California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty put it, “How do we reassure the public that the system is not totally rigged?”

State legislators sought to address this challenge with two new laws increasing oversight of the admissions process, both of which take effect in 2020.

The first addresses admissions by exception—a little-known policy that allows University of California campuses to admit up to 6% of their entering classes from among students who don’t meet the university’s minimum standards.

As CalMatters has reported, campuses use this flexibility in widely varying ways — including recruiting athletes, boosting diversity and luring out-of-state students (and their tuition dollars). One measure by McCarty seeks to increase accountability by requiring at least three senior administrators to sign off each time a student is admitted by exception.

Another law mandates that private colleges report on whether they give preference to applicants with connections to donors or alumni. Critics say these “legacy admissions” favor already-privileged students, but the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities argued that banning them altogether would hurt smaller schools.

In this video, CalMatters’ higher education reporter Felicia Mello explains these new college admissions laws in one minute.

For more videos on California laws taking effect in 2020, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Felicia Mello covers the state's economic divide. Prior to this role, she was editor for CalMatters' College Journalism Network, a collaboration with student journalists across California to cover higher...

Byrhonda Lyons is a national award-winning investigative reporter for CalMatters. She writes and produces compelling stories about California’s court and criminal system. Her reporting has uncovered...