The perfectly legal but immoral means of rich children to enter the best colleges


The concept of parody can be understood most simply as the comic art of taking something familiar to such an excess that it becomes a joke.

In this sense, last week fraud scandal of college admissions, which has trapped dozens of wealthy and famous Americans, is an act of pure parody, even involuntary. Because if the process has been exaggerated to a comic extent, the reality is that when it comes to admissions to elite schools, money can only guarantee access to those who can afford it.

"The corruption of coaches by high net worth individuals is actually just a more blatant example of what's happening all the time," said Richard Kahlenberg, senior researcher at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.

And although most wealthy Americans do not pay for fake charities for pictures with photoshopped of their children playing sports that they have never triedor bribing sports coaches, as dozens of investigators involved in the "Varsity Blues" investigation claim, the legal payment of admission fees is as routine as it is unfair, said Kahlenberg, who has spent years to study the question of inequality of opportunity in education.

"It was worse in the sense that each coach was doing the pocket, but overall, the same type of bribe is happening between rich and institutions every day of the week," Kahlenberg said.

This is hardly surprising in a landscape where five different schools Ivy Leaguethe top 1% of the income scale represented more students than the bottom 60%.

Take Jared Kushner, Son-in-law and assistant principal of Donald Trump, admitted to Harvard – generally considered the most prestigious university in the country – after his father made a $ 2.5 million donation to school, in despite the fact that the young academic Kushner was "less than brilliant" record.

In 2006, Daniel Golden set out Kushner's path to Harvard in his book The Price to Pay: How America's ruling class fights its way into elite colleges. In the book, Golden found that among a committee made up of the 400 largest Harvard donors, some of whom were childless or too young to have college children, half of the big donors had a child enrolled in school. Kushner, the descendant of one real estate empire is worth billions, denied that his acceptance had anything to do with the gift.

Golden noted that in some cases, the quid-pro-quo was not always consumed even before the student was accepted into a school. Prestigious universities often favor wealthy students by assuming that once in the university family, they will be more likely to give, a phenomenon he calls "development" admissions.

Kahlenberg says that the economic aspects of these decisions are very simple. "Colleges say," We have these extremely useful niches and we're going to take advantage of that, either by urging our alumni to donate money, or by trying to make sure that wealthy people do not have to make money. " having no connection with the university donated. ""

Another common practice is legacy admission, whereby applicants with family ties to a university receive preferential treatment. A 2011 Study of Admissions Rulings In 30 highly selective colleges and universities, the status of inheritance represented an acceptance more than three times higher.

Kahlenberg, who calls admissions inherited from the past a form of "legalized corruption," adds that universities extend these considerations in particular to elders who make donations.

In the absence of any attempt of seduction with a university with the promise of financial incentives, wealthy students are already enjoying virtually all the benefits of the admissions game – for example, the influence of the 39; athletics.

A 2002 study found that the benefit conferred by the practice of a sport actually exceeded that afforded by the inherited or past status of minorities, with respect to affirmative action programs. It is probably for this reason that William Singer, the central figure of the admissions scam, has focused his efforts on the fraudulent sports profiles of students.

And despite the impressions that one can think of the low percentage of university athletics that is shown on television, the sport is mostly an extracurricular activity of the rich.

"The time, effort and money needed to become a top athlete actually require a lot of resources," said Kirsten Hextrum, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Toronto. Oklahoma.

This is particularly true for sports such as rowing, golf, water polo and fencing, which face significant financial barriers to entering adolescence and are very popular in Ivy League.

And then there is the industry of professional college preparation, where 'for a price up to 1.5 million, parents can buy a set of admission consulting services five-year colleges ", like the New York Times. reported Wednesday.

"How do you deal with this situation where some people can afford to use private tutors to prepare for standardized tests, private tutors to improve their grades, or three or four times to test, then dollar preparation course? Said Richard Lempert, professor of law and sociology emeritus at the University of Michigan. "It's not corrupt – but it means those who have the most position to get even more."

Lempert and Kahlenberg have both devoted a large part of their careers to the study of positive action and have expressed the hope that the scandal and focus on the process of admission that in could result in a move towards systemic reforms.

"If you were right, you would try to build an admission system recognizing that some children had tremendous benefits," said Kahlenberg. "Therefore, we should consider their academic performance, their extracurricular activities, even the strength of their teachers' recommendations – in the context of a disadvantage."