A former admissions clerk at Cal State Fullerton has been arrested on suspicion of taking bribes to fast-track foreign students' applications, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Cathleen Louise Smith was arrested by campus police July 16 after an internal investigation revealed coding irregularities on applications, said university spokeswoman Paula Selleck.
Smith, 54, who also was arrested on suspicion of methamphetamine possession, is no longer at the university. She was released on $20,000 bond.
"She is suspected of taking a bribe for . . . putting [an application] on the top of the pile, as opposed to whenever it would have ordinarily arrived," Selleck said.
Interviewed outside her Placentia home Tuesday evening, Smith conceded that she had taken $2,000 to speed two Kuwaiti brothers' admissions into the university but said both students were academically eligible. She said she considered the money gifts and said she was a widow with three children.
"I'm sorry that it happened because I had a very good record there, extraordinary performance reviews," said Smith, who said she worked at the university since 1981. "I was a very good employee at Cal State Fullerton, I worked there for a very long time for very little money."
Smith also said that she was accused of changing grades. She denied it and said she didn't know how to do that.
About 4% of Cal State Fullerton's 35,921 undergraduate and graduate students are from outside the U.S. International applicants must submit more documentation than U.S. students and are evaluated on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the university's website.
Selleck said the problem was discovered when officials in the admissions and records department conducted a routine check to make sure applications were being processed correctly. Selleck said applications of some foreign students appeared to have been sped through the process.
After police complete their investigation, they will present their findings to the district attorney's office, which will decide whether to file charges.
Officers are interviewing students involved, Selleck said.