A recent report regarding the largest college cheating scam has shed light on the elitist system of college admissions that exists within the United States. Among those involved in the cheating scandal are actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, as well as a variety of wealthy CEOs of various businesses, coaches, admissions officers and many more, who have been accused of photoshopping fake athletic pictures and bribing SAT proctors to give children a leg up in the admissions process to help them get into highly selective elite colleges.
This report is not surprising nor is it a singular case of using loopholes to allow applicants to gain an unfair advantage. As an Asian high school student who will soon be applying to different colleges around the country and possibly around the world, I believe it is imperative to address this issue and take necessary steps to minimize the loopholes that plague the education system and capitulate to the corruption that exacerbates racial and economic inequality in the United States.
For me, it’s not just that these parents, coaches, and “consultants” abused their power to game the system. For me, the revelations of this piece of news represent a broader conversation we should be having regarding the institutional corruption and the institutional discrimination that not only exists in the education system, but also in the government, in corporations, and other major institutions in the world. When a person can use their wealth to “buy” and bribe their way into getting an elite college education, it means that they are also able to “buy” and bribe their way into getting legislation passed in government that favor them and their wealth; it also means that they are able to “buy” and bribe their way into getting a high paying job at a major corporation because of their wealth and the wealth of their family. It is one thing to have a great amount of money and a higher standard of living than a majority of people. We all want to live that American dream and live a better life than our parents did. However, to use wealth and power to game a system, create loopholes to gain an unfair advantage, and to exacerbate inequality is fundamentally wrong.
As much as I’d like to call out these people for illegal activities, the reality is that variants of the corruption and discrimination that exist in the higher education system are NOT illegal. According to Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Golden, the legacy preference–a process through which children of alumni who graduated from an elite college get a higher chance of entering that school than normal applicants–was first created as a way to “partly limit enrollment of Jews”. This process of admission remains very much in practice today. According to data about this next year’s students accepted to the University of Virginia via early decision through legacy preferences, 91% of students admitted through this process are white, 1.6% are black, 0.5% are Hispanic, and 1.6% are Asian. Whether we recognize it or not, this is a form of institutional discrimination against all racial minorities as well as immigrants in particular. The discriminatory practice that exists within the education system needs to be addressed by lawmakers both locally and nationally in order to level the playing field for all students regardless of race or income.
Legacy preferences are certainly not the only legal form of institutional discrimination and corruption within the college admissions system today. From donor preferences–as evidenced by Harvard University’s recently revealed secret list of applicants related to wealthy donors– to the difference in tuition rates and application processes between U.S. students and international students, to preferences for students who apply early–which favors wealthy students as the early admissions process comes before financial aid decisions, there are multiple ways in which the process of being admitted into colleges has become increasingly corrupt and skewed towards the most affluent in society, and it needs to change. As an Asian immigrant whose parents have neither millions to donate to an elite college nor relatives who graduated from one, I have to rely on my skills, my test scores, my extracurricular activities, my essays, and my community service to improve my chances at getting into an elite college should I decide I want to pursue an education there. Despite the excellence I strive for across all of these, it’s disappointing to know that I may not be able to overcome the great advantage of the influence of money that a variety of other applicants may have over me…
Image Credits: http://vgulla.blogspot.com/2011/04/college-admissions-and-corruption.html