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Sen. Rob Wagner has put forth Senate Bill 1038 to increase equity among college admissions

Oregon state senator and Lake Oswego School District School Board member Ron Wagner submitted a bill that he hopes will help equal the playing field of college admissions. Senate Bill 1038 was first read this morning on the Senate floor in Salem.

If passed, the bill would establish a student equity fund and authorize courts to include a money award in criminal conviction of bribe giving or bribe receiving committed for purpose of admitting an individual at at a public institution of higher education.

The money would then be placed in the student equity fund and used to provide academic scholarships, with preference given for students who are low income or first generation students.

Senate Bill 1038 comes after a scandal about college admission caught the nation's attention. Federal prosecutors have charged over 50 people involved in the scam; many of them are accused of to unfairly gain admittance into top tier universities through bribery. Wagner says the bill is meant to increase equity in the college admissions process, and show that this type of activity will not be tolerated in Oregon.

"Students should get into college based on their merits and potential, and not the size of their bank account," Wagner said. "One of the great things about public higher education is that it levels the playing field. If we allow the wealthy to buy their way into our colleges, we are turning our backs on the equity that we are supposed to be promoting."

The bill would also require universities to have greater transparency when it comes to donations. It would require donors to indicate whether their immediate family is enrolled in the institution they are donating to, and require institutions to make publicly available on their website the percentage of students whose immediate family has donated to institution and total amount of dollars donated to institution by immediate family of students for each class year of enrolled students.

"This will prevent people from giving unfair advantages to students who come from well-off families," Wagner said. "It also will help to promote more first-generation students and children from struggling families attending college, by funding scholarships to help them cover the cost of their education."

Finally, the bill would require that the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, a volunteer state board established in 2011 in the U.S. state of Oregon, responsible for advising the governor, the legislature and the Chief Education Office on statewide postsecondary education policies and funding, develop a statement summarizing potential criminal and civil consequences of attempting to use bribery to secure admission to public institution of higher education and to place said statement on the home page of the Office of Student Access and Completion website. The Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) is a state office that helps Oregonians plan and pay for college by providing scholarships and other financial aid, mentorship, informational resources, and more.

"This bill is outlined to start the conversation when it comes to creating a level playing field for admissions," said a representative for Wagner. "We want to talk about how we can make it equal for all students to have access to an equal education."

To read the full text of the bill, visit www.olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Measures/Overview/SB1038/.


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