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UC spends $158,000 on advertising campaign after state audit

(Daily Bruin file photo)

By Ryan Leou

July 1, 2016 12:28 p.m.

The University of California spent $158,000 on positive advertising and publicity of the University after a state audit criticized its admissions policies.

The campaign, first reported by the Sacramento Bee, included a report drafted in response to a March 29 state audit, which suggested the UC lowered admissions requirements for nonresident students while enrolling fewer California students.

The audit found enrollment of nonresident students increased by 82 percent while enrollment of California students decreased by 1 percent from 2010 to 2015.

The UC issued a report in response to the audit stating about 80 percent of the UC’s almost 200,000 students are from California, and the University turned to nonresident students to help supplement decreased state funding after the recession.

Dianne Klein, UC spokesperson, said in an email statement the University was concerned the state auditors misinterpreted data and reached incorrect conclusions, so it decided to release its own report.

“We strongly disagreed with the premise of the audit report that UC ‘disadvantages’ California students,” Klein wrote.

She said rather than simply responding to the audit in a statement, the UC decided to compile its own report to explain to the public in direct terms what it does for the state and for California students using facts and data, such as the proportion of California students at the UC or who receives financial aid.

The UC spent about $19,000 on digital banner ads, about $12,000 on promoted Facebook and Twitter posts linking to positive news articles about admissions and $123,000 on public radio sponsorships touting admissions numbers, financial aid and applicants’ information, according to the Sacramento Bee’s investigation.

“I want to emphasize that no public or tuition money was used,” Klein added.

She said these funds came from an endowment recovery fund, which is a private gifts fund that the UC Board of Regents has approved for use in fundraising and support for the University.

Klein also said the advertising campaign started weeks before the state released the audit and continued after the release as part of the ad buy.

“Our marketing communications department routinely buys advertising with organizations such as public radio stations to get out the word about UC,” Klein said.

Danny Siegel, Undergraduate Students Association Council president, said he thinks the UC campaign is not necessarily inappropriate, but the optics create distrust in the way the UC interacts with the public.

“You see the figure of $158,000 spent on advertising, and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Siegel said.

However, Siegel added he thinks the publicity campaign draws attention away from what he thinks is the central issue: decreased financial support for the UC.

“The onus is on the state for this (spending),” Siegel said. “The UC wouldn’t be enrolling so many out-of-state students if the state wasn’t underfunding UC in the first place.”

Contributing reports by Evolet Chiu, Daily Bruin senior staff.

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Ryan Leou | Assistant News Editor
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