As an old college professor, I have a few secrets to reveal to you.
There is no such thing as an elite college. That’s something that rich colleges like to call themselves, and when other colleges claim that, all they’re really saying is that they aspire to be rich. Harvard isn’t a better educational institution than your local community college — in a lot of ways, CCs are better because the teachers are just as dedicated (they have to be, they’re getting paid a lot less) and the students may be more focused on actually learning something.
College is worth exactly as much as the student puts into it. I’ve had slacker students, and I’ve had enthusiastic, interested students. I’ve taught them both exactly the same things. Guess which one actually learns more?
The amount of learning isn’t at all correlated with tuition. It’s a funny thing, but paying more money to a school does not mean your experience will be upgraded. It may actually be the reverse. Big Fancy College will do most of their instruction with grad student TAs; Small Cheap College will expect the faculty to spend more time working with students.
What you’re paying for at an “elite” college is social status. That’s it. Not a better education, not better teachers, not esoteric knowledge you can get nowhere else. You get to hang out and make connections with other students from a socioeconomic background that can afford this overpriced place. That may be a valuable asset, but let’s not pretend that the school’s primary purpose is education, then.
Admission is rigged. Ever hear of “legacy” admissions? If a parent is an alumnus of a school, their children get preferential admission. It’s kind of the opposite of merit — you get in by accident of birth. Walk around some of the “elite” college campuses, and you’ll see all these buildings named after people. Sometimes they’re named to honor distinguished faculty, but more often it’s because some rich person dropped a few million dollars on the school. Do you think if the offspring of said rich fat cat applied, they wouldn’t be ushered in the door?
Well now, thanks to a major sting operation by the federal law enforcement, another layer of corruption has been exposed.
Federal officials have charged dozens of well-heeled parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, in what the Justice Department says was a multimillion-dollar scheme to cheat college admissions standards. The parents allegedly paid a consultant who then fabricated academic and athletic credentials and arranged bribes to help get their children into prestigious universities.
“We’re talking about deception and fraud — fake test scores, fake credentials, fake photographs, bribed college officials,” said Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Lelling said 33 parents “paid enormous sums” to ensure their children got into schools such as Stanford and Yale, sending money to entities controlled by a man named William Rick Singer in return for falsifying records and obtaining false scores on important tests such as the SAT and ACT.
Singer was the middle man, but he facilitated parents who lied and cheated, and school officials who collaborated. A bunch of coaches have been arrested — they would lie and say the sweet little darling prospective student was being recruited for an athletic program, even if they weren’t, to give them an edge in admissions. (That’s another big problem: athletics is a fertile ground for bringing in inappropriately qualified students.)
Describing how Singer worked to present his clients’ children as elite athletes, Lelling said, “In many instances, Singer helped parents take staged photographs of their children engaged in particular sports. Other times, Singer and his associates used stock photos that they pulled off the Internet — sometimes Photoshopping the face of the child onto the picture of the athlete” and submitting it to desirable schools.
“Singer’s clients paid him anywhere between $200,000 and $6.5 million for this service,” Lelling said.
Rotten through and through. Athletics should not be a factor at all in getting into college.
And then there was widespread cheating on the standardized tests required to get in, with paid proxies taking the exams for the kids, or sitting right there with them in the testing room, feeding them the answers.
Other defendants in the case include university athletic coaches and college exam administrators — some of whom are accused of accepting bribes. Court documents state that the scheme targeted these schools as part of a “student-athlete recruitment scam”: Yale University, the University of Southern California, Georgetown University, UCLA, Wake Forest University, Stanford University, University of San Diego and the University of Texas, Austin.
“There will not be a separate admissions system for the wealthy,” Lelling said. “And there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.”
Yeah, right. There has always been privileged admissions for the wealthy. Does anyone want to break the news to him about our criminal justice system? It’s funny how the color of one’s skin is a major factor in admission to our prisons.
By the way — next time someone whines about affirmative action and how it lets in unqualified black students over superior white students, just haul off and punch them in the mouth. The system is set up to favor unqualified rich students over intelligent poor students.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” said U.S. Atty. Andrew Lelling. He said they “knowingly conspired … to help their children cheat or buy their children admission to elite schools through fraud.”
Prosecutors allege that Singer instructed parents to donate funds to a fake charity he had established as part of the scheme. Most of the parents paid at least $200,000, but some spent up to $6.5 million to guarantee their children admission to top universities, authorities said. The parents were then able to deduct the donation off their income taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
They can afford to drop a million dollars to smuggle their kid into school, and then write it off their taxes? Oh, America.
I was all prepared to cut the kids some slack — they may not have known what their parents were doing. But then I read about Olivia Jade Giannulli, daughter of Lori Loughlin (an actor?), who paid half a million dollars to get her into USC. Olivia Jade’s interests are fashion, beauty, instagram, and YouTube, where she has acquired almost 2 million subscribers who listen to her prattle while she puts on her makeup.
Juggling school, a personal brand, and a YouTube channel isn’t easy. In her first week, for example, Olivia Jade had to travel to Fiji for a work shoot. “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend, but I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all,” she said in a vlog beforehand. “But I do want the experience of game days, partying…” She paused. “I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”
She doesn’t care about school. She’s there for football games and parties.
You know USC is a very good school, right? (They’re all good schools.) But apparently they are rather indiscriminate in the riff-raff they allow in. And this cheesy, shallow twit is taking up space that someone who could really use the educational opportunity would find productive.
And she has 2 million subscribers to her vapid channel? I’ve been experimenting with YouTube myself, you know, and I guess I’ve been doing it wrong. I’m gonna start recording my daily beauty routine — trimming my nose hairs, scrubbing the callouses on my feet, taking my Old Person Heart pills, while mumbling in a rheumy voice about getting off my lawn. It’ll be a hit!
Recall what I said about “College is worth exactly as much as the student puts into it“? That’s one of the biggest crimes here, that the system is rigged to allow rich students to waste the resources and opportunities of our educational system. And nothing is going to change because of this one-shot criminal proceeding.
More stories of the “students” who profited from this scheme are emerging — here’s Isabelle Henriquez, who gloated about how her parents had an expert flown in to hold her hand during the SATs, so she could get into Georgetown. Now her false pretenses are making expulsion possible.
Advice to children of rich parents who bought their way into college: shut the fuck up. Nothing you can say will help you, and everything you say is going to make others despise you. Lie low. Study hard. Prove you earned your education.