Earlier this week, dozens of celebrities and wealthy Americans were charged with buying their kids’ way into prestigious and big-name colleges.
News outlets reported that these stars gamed the system through bribery, falsifying exam scores, and so much more in order to secure a slot for their kids.
The ringleader of the scam, William Singer, even reportedly photoshopped a client’s kid into photos to make it seem as if the student were participating in an athletic event for a sport they didn’t even play.
Dozens of examples of fraud have been uncovered in this case since the investigation, which the FBI refers to as “Operation Varsity Blues,” began in 2011, and it highlights the often competitive and spurious nature of the college application process.
There is immense pressure on students to have a perfect transcript and an abundance of extracurriculars to even be considered for an interview to gain admission to those Ivy Leagues these affluent families scammed their ways into.
As the sordid details of the scandal continue to surface, it’s easy to condemn the parents’ behavior. However, it raises a larger question about due process in this case – will these wealthy defendants spend a day in prison?
Parents in much poorer communities are fined and even jailed for using addresses of family members to provide their children with a chance at an education in neighboring towns with superior educational systems.
ABC News reported in 2011 that Kelley Williams-Bolar, a black woman from Ohio, spent nine days in jail and two years on probation for using her father’s address to enroll her child in a different school district. She was also ordered to repay $30,000 in back tuition – all for trying to give her children the education people in affluent communities take for granted.
According to Variety, after Lori Laughlin was charged in relation to this case, she was released and will be allowed to leave the country for a photoshoot with Hallmark.
While she hasn’t been found guilty of anything, her ability to wantonly leave the country while facing criminal charges reeks of white privilege.
Williams-Bolar surely wouldn’t have been given that opportunity.
Higher education has long been inaccessible for the majority of the world’s population. The privilege of any college education – let alone one that racks up a bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars – is something few will ever see.
And when it comes down to it, a college education is a privilege regardless of the institution’s name, and it’s a powerful weapon to wield in the workforce. According to a 2010 survey conducted by Harvard, only 6.7 percent of the world’s population has a bachelor’s degree and a 2017 census found just over 33 percent of Americans hold bachelor’s degrees.
These affluent parents, fueled by the hysteria created in the hallowed halls of Ivy League schools, believed that no price was too great to prevent their children from receiving an education at a less prestigious school – maybe even a state school – where they would’ve been admitted based on merit and not money.
In the minds of these privileged few, a child’s success – and their own image – is intrinsically tied to the name on the degree that eventually hangs in that kid’s office.
Closer to home, many FSU students take on student loans and multiple jobs in hopes of receiving a college education. There are many negative preconceptions concerning state schools – that they aren’t “good enough” or that the name of the university means more than the degree.
But, if you think about it, a student applying themselves here at Framingham State is learning a lot more than any kid who’s partying at Yale because of a staged photo of them playing water polo.
Singer called these tactics – this fraud – the “side door” for getting into universities, with regular admissions being the “front door” and huge donations and family connections being the “back door.”
With such a crooked admissions system in private education, the front door is already guarded by bouncers and finding the the back door requires a map most can’t afford. A side door is just an all-access pass only handed out to those who will arrive on campus with a blank check and a credit card in their parents’ name.
Everyone should be made to walk through the front door. And everyone should face the consequences for trying to sneak in through the side.