It’s no secret that being born into a wealthy family sets an individual up with advantages that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. From basic material items to opportunities like jobs and accessible education, it is generally agreed upon that a copious amount of money can essentially lead to one’s success.
On March 12, 2019, news broke of a nationwide scam that found dozens of students unjustly admitted into top universities such as Harvard, USC and Georgetown. Along with this, another half of the report dealt with parents paying for their children to receive optimal scores on the SAT, ACT and entrance exams.
Organized by William “Rick” Singer, owner of a college-prep program titled “The Key,” the eight-year long scam primarily involved two services: athletic recruitment and test score altering. In order to get students recruited for sports they did not even play, Singer either crafted fake athletic portfolios (complete with Photoshopped images) or went directly to the coaches and bribed them.
For parents who opted to improve their children’s test scores, Singer employed many different practices, from planting proctors from the company in testing rooms, to convincing therapists to sign off on extra time, to straight-up changing answers prior to tests being sent out.
Aside from CEO’s, doctors and lawyers, the lineup of parents arrested in conjunction with the case included actresses Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”) and Lori Loughlin (“Full House”). Parents paid anywhere from $15,000 to $6.5 million for the services. Loughlin, along with husband and clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, handed over $500,000 for their daughters (including social media mogul Olivia Jade) to be admitted to USC to participate on the crew team, a sport which neither of them had ever taken part in.
We at The New Paltz Oracle oppose these dishonest practices used to admit students, some of whom were unaware of their parent’s actions, into universities that many work towards their entire youth. The college admissions process has become increasingly more difficult throughout the years, and no amount of money should be able to buy a student’s way into any university.
Each college involved within the scandal boasts extremely competitive admissions. According to their website, of the 64,256 total applicants of the 2018 freshman class at USC, only 8,258 were admitted. At schools like Harvard University, which accepted only 1,962 of its 42,749 applicants this past year according to Boston.com, admission is even more rare.
Looking at these statistics, it is easy to imagine the countless number of students who worked hard throughout high school and excelled, only to be denied admission. Their fate becomes more frustrating when taking into account the dozens of students who did not work as hard but were able to attend these schools due to their monetary status and privilege.
A prime example of one of these students is Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade, who, in a YouTube video from last year, discussed college and complained that she “didn’t really care about school” and was only attending for the social aspects, like “game days” and “partying.” Students like Jade, who clearly don’t care about their education, taking spots from actual scholars and exemplary athletes, are what makes the situation so harrowing.
Of course, it is ultimately the parents that are to blame for taking control of a part of their children’s lives that they had no business controlling. An article published by Intelligencer shortly after the report of the investigation was published broke down which of the children involved knew about the circumstances of their admissions and which were likely left in the dark. Phone conversations acquired during the investigation found that many students fell into the latter category, with parents informing Singer to keep the fraudulent activities hidden from their children.
Though parents involved in the scandal were arrested and are currently awaiting trial, it is likely that, given their socioeconomic status, they will serve no jail time. In contrast, there are parents like Kelley Williams-Bolar, a black woman from Ohio who was sentenced to 10-days in prison and three years probation for falsifying records about her residency in order to send her young children to a better school district.
Parents like Bolar are forced to make tough decisions like these in order to give their children a fighting chance; parents like those involved in the scandal selfishly chose to use their status to give their already privileged children a shove further ahead.
Penned by the New York Times in a piece published on March 16, the admissions scandal has inspired a new term: “snowplow parenting.” Unlike the popular “helicopter parenting,” which finds parents hovering over their children’s every move, ready to strike into action when deemed necessary, “snowplow parents” are always directly in front of their children, ridding them of any obstacles that may come in their path.
We at The Oracle believe that this style of parenting is not only detrimental to a child’s life, but to society as a whole. No matter how wealthy or privileged one may be, convincing children that they will never have to face any hardships in life is only setting them up for eventual failure and extreme hurt.
Ultimately, the scandal has shed a light on our educational system and the flaws it possesses. In this specific situation, it is mostly coaches and athletic department representatives (most of whom have been fired or placed on leave) to blame for accepting bribes in exchange for unjust admission. However, there are plenty of faults within the system that allow money to play a bigger part than it ever should in the admission process.
Though this specific situation is an extreme, there are plenty of other completely legal actions that occur every day to enhance a students acceptance into a school. An article in NPR highlighted ways money plays a role in the admissions process, including applying early decision (a decision cycle that occurs in the fall and binds students to the school once they are accepted). This method highly favors wealthy students, and often decreases the amount of spots available come the regular application cycle.
Everyone should have access to a higher education, and while the cost of this education is an entire topic in and of itself, there is no way one should be able to buy their way into a school that they do not meet the requirements of, be it through legal or illegal actions.
We believe that admission into any school should be based off of merit alone, and one’s socioeconomic status should never play a role in this decision. On top of this, protective measures must be put into place to prevent a nationwide scam like this from ever occurring again.
The current college admissions scandal is not the first instance of privilege and wealth being used to further an individual, and it certainly won’t be the last. More and more, it seems like we as a society have forgotten what the goals of a higher education are: To educate, something that everyone deserves a right to.