Jamie Kim / Gavel Media

College Admissions Is Infected by the Rich

The admissions process for prestigious schools is known to be extraordinarily selective and competitive; this has never been a secret. There is no denying that the Ivy League and other elite schools are comprised of some of the smartest kids in the nation. What is troubling is that a disproportionate number of these students are also the richest in the nation. This was made shockingly clear recently, when some students discovered it was not their brains that got them into prestigious schools, but rather their parent’s wallets.

Parents using bribery to get their children into high-end colleges is a scheme that has reportedly been going on since 2011. However, the scandal was only recently brought to light when about 33 parents were discovered to have allegedly paid money to ensure their children's admission to prestigious colleges. Some of these parents, including high-end celebrities such as Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives, spent about $25 million in bribes to college coaches, exam administrators, and admission counselors in attempts to get their children into Yale, Georgetown, USC, and other schools. One of the saddest parts is that the kids didn’t appear to know they were part of this whole scheme.

However, the parents couldn’t have managed this scheme alone. They had assistance from a man called William “Rick” Singer, a 58-year-old that ran a college prep company called The Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key. He has accepted about $25 million in “charitable donations” from wealthy parents like Huffman since 2011 and funneled the money to his collaborators at college institutions in order to guarantee their children’s admission. He participated in the SAT exam scam by hiring his associates to take the exam in place of the children.

Aside from the obvious issue of bribery, the college admissions scandal highlights the classism and racism inherent in the college admission process—the huge divide between the wealthy and poor in our country. Many deserving kids may be denied the opportunity to attend prestigious schools because they lack the wealth to pay their way in. Among these kids are students of color, typically Latinos and African American students, who only make up about 22% of top tier private schools, where white students compose around 64% of exclusive private institutions. This leads to increasingly white populations at private, top end universities like our very own beloved BC. Many marginalized groups, denied of the opportunities that white people receive, can't afford these universities' high prices.

One of these opportunities, similar to the college admission scandal, is legacy status. While celebrities and wealthy people are being reprimanded for bribing their way into college, legacies can accomplish a very similar task, except they can do it legally.

A “legacy” student is someone whose parents attended and/or graduated from the institution to which the student is applying. While colleges have special preference for legacies because they are more likely to attend the institution, there is also the matter of money. Colleges want to build alumni relationships, and by offering admission to students of alumni, they can help boost alumni giving and donations. Although colleges claim legacy status is used in the same way as race in order to create diverse communities, critics believe the practice favors white affluent students.

The college admission process is daunting and stressful, as we all know—I was only finished with it under a year ago. However, the opportunity for education should never be compromised by money, or a lack thereof. Parents should not be allowed to buy their child’s way into education, whether through outright bribes of millions of dollars or legacy status. The college admissions process has already been under some heat with the Harvard Affirmative Action case. This recent discovery of fraud and bribery only add onto my increased distrust of these institutions.

The college admission scandal reveals deeper issues that our country needs to address regarding class and race. There are serious problems with the admission process, both illegal and legal, and we must do better at addressing them in the future.

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