Sometimes, when it comes to college admissions, we’re left scratching our heads as to how the mysterious science of admission really works. Over spring break we got a disturbing insight into how the college admissions process actually operates. 

Two students of Stanford University have filed a class action lawsuit against several institutions for being unfairly treated during the admissions process. Several celebrities and college sports coaches have been implicated in the alleged conspiracy. 

The scandal was orchestrated by William Rick Singer, the CEO of a college admissions prep company called The Key. Singer was selling two types of admission fraud: one being the bribery of SAT/ACT proctors to boost scores, the other being the utilization of Singer’s connections with Division I coaches to get students into universities with fake athletic credentials.

The whole scandal is a sobering display of the power of privilege. Take for example Lori Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade. Jade attends the University of Southern California and has been implicated in the scandal. In a video posted to her YouTube channel last August, Jade stated, “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend … I do want the experience of game-days, partying, I don’t really care about school, as you guys know.” 

This is not a victimless crime. Every single student who applied to the implicated colleges (Stanford, USC, Yale, UCLA, UT Arlington, USD, etc.) are the victims. Privilege and wealth is the most valuable aspect of a college applicant, not a stunning GPA or test scores. Students who have little to no interest in academics or learning are being admitted into the most prestigious universities on the basis of bribery. This is the college system we all exist within today. 

Not only are students the victims, athletes are as well. The $500,000 bribe paid by Loughlin secured Jade an athletic scholarship for the crew team, despite Jade never rowing a day in her life. Real athletes were denied a chance at pursuing their athletic dreams because of the parental obsession with attending a distinguished university.

A recurring question continued to pop into my mind as I read the headlines with a jaded expression: didn’t we already know this was happening?  

Obviously this is a heinous crime that must be punished accordingly. However, this case has only reminded us that it’s time for some long-needed scrutiny of the college admissions process.

Almost all of my friends in high school had SAT/ACT tutors, talked with college admissions coaches, hired college essay editors, attended expensive summer school classes that were far easier than regular classes and more.

Isn’t it widely recognized that making large donations to a university increases your chances at admissions officers making a favorable decision on your application? If you're lucky enough to be the child of a famous alumni of a school isn’t your admission to said school essentially guaranteed?

So, is any of this really breaking news?

The real story is that our society has become entirely too fixated on the idea of success. Our ideology behind the higher education system has become so warped to the point where we normalize using money to find the smallest advantages in the admission process. This recent scandal does nothing but reinforce the notion that the culture surrounding college admission values money over morals.

Obviously those involved in the recent scandal used criminal means, but is the end result so different? Both used their financial privilege to give their students a better chance at college admissions at the expense of other equally hard-working students.  

A lucrative market based around satisfying our obsession has arisen. Take a look at the standardized testing industry. The National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College reported that the value of the standardized testing market was anywhere between $400 and $700 million.

Or, perhaps the tutoring industry, where $50 dollars per hour for a private tutor is considered a deal. Market research firm Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA) released a study in 2012 stating that the global private tutoring market was estimated to surpass $102.8 billion by the end of 2018. Let’s put that into context — the private tutoring market is worth one and half times more than every NFL team combined. 

In a perfect world, money would have nothing to do with the admissions process or academics as a whole. This scandal has shown us we’re very, very far from that perfect world.

 

Luke Modugno is a staff writer.

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