Last month, the FBI charged fifty people for taking part in illegally securing admission into a handful of colleges and universities, making this one of the largest college admissions scams in the country.
Wealthy parents involved offered up millions of dollars to one man, William Singer, to falsify potential students’ information. Singer owned a business called Edge College and Career Network along with a non-profit titled the Key Worldwide Foundation.
According to the New York Times, Singer was “behind an elaborate effort to bribe coaches and test monitors, falsify exam scores, and fabricate student biographies.” Applications were fabricated to appear as if certain students were qualified athletes or that they had very high SAT scores.
His businesses, both for-profit and non-profit, dealt with guidance and mentorship for high school students moving toward college and higher education. During his court hearing, in which he pleaded guilty, Singer called his scam the “side door” into college. Many parents, including actress Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, engaged in this “side door” scam in order to guarantee their child’s acceptance into elite colleges.
While this college admission scandal is a wide-scale scam, those who can afford it have been buying their way into college even before this scandal came into light. All of these other methods are all tied together by wealth or being born into wealth. For example, donating to a large college will give an applicant a leg up against others. Wealth matters, and so does bloodline.
Things like legacy admissions give preference to students whose family members attended the corresponding college. All of these alternative “side door” methods exclude those who are not born into a higher class family, and suggests that in order to stand out an applicant’s parents should offer large amounts of money to the school─or for parents to be wealthy enough to graduate from a school that allows legacy admissions and will benefit them, their family and their futures.
The college admissions scandal is yet another example of class reinforcement and restriction. In a recent tweet by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, she references the college admission scandal in comparison to the current criminal justice system, saying “Our country has a ‘justice’ system that criminalizes poverty + disproportionately targets race, yet routinely pardons large-scale crimes of wealth and privilege.”
Race, class and wealth are major contributors to whether or not someone makes it into a college. The admission scandal shows the depth to which class and race disparities are still present within college admission systems.
Those students whose parents buy their way into colleges take the place of those who may be marginalized or disadvantaged, not having other means of attending college without scholarships, or even more willing to dedicate themselves to school. Lori Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade, admits to disinterest in college education on her YouTube channel despite her mother’s alleged actions to secure her and her sister’s place in a crew team for the University of Southern California.
These alternative methods of securing a place within a college come with a sense of desperation. Why do people go through potentially illegal loopholes just to claim a spot in a college? It all stems from the amount of value society places on competitive colleges and higher education in general.
There are certain expectations in society when it comes to education. In life, there is a general expectation for a person to go to high school, graduate, attend college, receive a diploma and to apply for a career under a similar field of study. The elitist ivy league college experience is highly idolized in movies, television and in college communities in general.
Students preparing to apply for colleges can state the name of their big dream school, like Harvard or Yale, but fail to think about a field of study to apply themselves to. College has become less of an opportunity for education and more of a fight to gain social mobility.
After the admissions scandal, it
e is vital to reevaluate what education means to us as a society. The amount of importance we have given to the name of a college rather than the type of education a person will receive is unbalanced.
This imbalance builds a pressure in families to manipulate the system so that their child can receive a diploma while taking the opportunities from others who are more deserving. Wealth and privilege should not be the determining factor in the decision of whether or not a potential student will be admitted into a school.