Earlier this week, news broke that 50 people — including business leaders, athletic coaches and actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — were charged in the largest-ever college admissions conspiracy.
Thirty-three affluent parents have been charged with bribery and fraud in the attempt to get their kids into “elite” universities and colleges. The cases allegedly involved cheating on the SAT and ACT and paying coaches hundreds of thousands of dollars to fabricate athletic records.
This egregious case of fraud has caught a lot of media attention; many people are shocked at the measures these individuals were willing to take to get their kids into “elite” schools, including the University of Southern California, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford and others.
But online, there has also been a lot of attention the fact of this case that is bubbling just beneath the surface: the wealthy have been “cheating” to get into “elite” colleges for a long time.
There have been studies, New York Times reports and personal essays galore on the advantages the affluent have to get into “top tier” private and public schools. Rich people score better on the SATs because they can afford prep classes and tutors; they receive inflated grades at their “prestigious” high schools; and (usually) have the resources, time, and bandwidth to participate in extracurricular activities, unlike poor students who often have to work, take care of family members, or perform other household duties.
Maybe more extreme than the extra resources rich kids receive to prepare their college applications, data has also proven that when it comes to getting accepted, your family name and your parents’ level of education matters. A recent Harvard trial proved it is easier to get into elite colleges if your family donates to the school, and this survey proves that 42 percent of private institutions and 6 percent of public institutions consider legacy status as a factor in admissions.
Is this cheating scandal really so scandalous when it happens in lesser ways every year? As @The_Law_Boy joked on Twitter, “Just so you all know, I got into an elite school the moral way: through an aggregating series of structural advantages in my favor.”
I mean, the unfair college application system is so blatant that some colleges have more students from the top one percent than the bottom 60 percent. Meanwhile, four in 10 kids in the top .1 percent land at an “Ivy plus” school, while only about four in ten of kids in the bottom 20 percent attend a two- or four-year program at all.
To me, the widespread shock at this cheating scandal says only one thing: we need to face the fact that the intersection class and college acceptance spends little time in the spotlight, often sinking under the widespread criticism of affirmative action and similar programs.
“Perhaps this is a good time to talk about all the perfectly legal ways the wealthy are both allowed and expected to manipulate college-admissions systems while teaching their children to disparage ‘affirmative action’,” feminist writer Andi Ziesler tweeted.
“Harvard admits more white students with legacy preferences than the total number of black students admitted each year. And that’s for being *related* to privilege, not even counting the kids whose parents just purchased their admission,” activist @samswey also reminded the Twittersphere.
As this scandal has proven, kids with affluent parents are no more intelligent, disciplined or talented than those with poor parents. Otherwise, with all those resources, this horde of alleged cheaters would’ve gotten into the University of Southern California the “fair” way. Or at the very least, they would’ve had a good enough shot that their parents might not have felt the need to commit fraud. Instead, the system is stacked in the favor of the affluent, whether they cheat illegally or not. That fact makes it almost humorous when they do. I mean, it should be a well-known fact that the rich pay their way into many an institution. This is just a spoof of everyday entitlement gone very wrong.
As Mashable entertainment reporter Alexis Nedd tweeted, “The elite college admittance system is predicated on the completely legal ways rich people advantage their children via tutors, test prep, activities, sports, legacy, donations, time, and more so it's extra funny to me when they fumble all that and say 'f it, let's crime.'"