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In early 2018 an investigation involving stock market fraud led the FBI to a criminal who offered to cooperate with their case in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. In interviews, he mentioned something about a soccer coach who offered to get his daughter into Yale University for $45,000. One year later, the biggest scandal in U.S. college history has everyone in the country talking.
This college-admissions scandal exposed schemes to get the children of wealthy parents into some of the country’s best schools. It confirmed what many Americans have known, or at least suspected, for decades – higher education is unequally available to the privileged.
We’ve long known that a college and university degree can be prohibitively expensive. We’ve also known that a degree from the most prestigious schools is at least as important as the education gained. Seeing the name of an elite university on a resume is a guarantee to open more doors and opportunities than from a public or community college. But this scandal revealed that, with a tax-deductible bribe, it was possible to cheat and lie your way to the top. The system is more rigged than we ever expected.
We have known that parents with financial means can pay for special tutoring in preparing for SAT and ACT tests. The final test scores will have a significant impact on academic admission results. Boost the final results by an extra 150 points or more, which is the average increase gained from these tutoring sessions, and you have a major advantage over children whose families can’t afford the extra lessons.
At a cost of a few hundred thousand dollars, parents could arrange to have others take the standardized admissions tests in place of their children. These tests are recognized all over the world as an academic necessity for college placement. Yet, with one well-placed bribe, the system was rigged in favor of students who didn’t even need to show up.
Athletic scholarships are a way for many in the U.S. to get admitted into top universities. There are athletic programs in dozens of different sports across this country. One needn’t be gifted in American football or gymnastics to qualify as a college athlete.
The mastermind behind this elaborate plot conspired to falsify records and even photographs in order to claim that some children were student-athletes, deserving of a scholarship. It didn’t matter that the youngsters could barely swim, they could enter the university as top-ranked divers or water polo players. As long as the students went to team functions, such as dinners and rallies, they wouldn’t be required to participate in any actual competitions, practices, or even bother traveling to events.
This plot was overseen by William “Rick’ Singer, a college admissions counselor. He is the owner of The Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key. He’s also CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, a non-profit organization established as a false charity. Parents would make payments to the foundation that they then wrote off on their taxes, in effect disguising bribes made to college administrators and coaches.
Over fifty wealthy people and celebrities have been indicted for these crimes, and one suspects that there will be more to come. Yet, as I say, there is no indication that the systemic problem of unequal educational opportunity in the U.S. will go away anytime soon.
Many American colleges and universities have something called legacy admissions. If you are directly related to an alumnus, you would have a distinct advantage in being accepted to the same institution. This policy can be impacted, however, by pressure on schools to admit students of minority ethnic and racial backgrounds. Since all colleges in the U.S. continue to overwhelmingly admit white and wealthy students. Only the wealthiest colleges can afford to admit students whose parents can’t afford the tuition.
The solution? If the parent makes a wealthy donation to the school, then that institution can afford more diverse students! This is precisely what Jared Kushner’s father did. With a donation of $2.5 million, the future son-in-law of the president of the US was admitted to Harvard University, despite his less than stellar grades and test scores. When the senior Kushner was convicted in 2005 for multiple white-collar crimes, his legacy gift to Harvard was not affected.
With the national election now only two years away, candidates on both sides can be expected to spend a lot of time talking about this subject.
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