We’re two days into the very public fallout from what is being dubbed the College Admissions Scandal, which involves a group of rich parents, including actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, paying thousands of dollars to doctor SAT scores, entrance essays, and admission requirements in order to secure their teenage children a spot at big name colleges in the U.S.. Fifty people in total, including wealthy parents, college coaches and test administrators have been accused of plotting to gain entrance for students, with the FBI engaging in a mass arrest on Tuesday and levelling charges against many of those involved. It’s a trainwreck, but in the midst of it all we keep coming back to the same question: how much would we pay for our child’s future?
There’s so much to unpack with the College Admissions Scandal, but one thing we keep going back to is the root of the mess, which is parents doing whatever they can to secure a bright future for their children. Is this an example of privilege in America? Definitely. Should these parents have let their children take the SATs on their own and donated their bribe money to educational programs for disadvantaged youth? Of course. Are students whose parents paid their way into college taking away spots from lower income students who studied and worked hard for their marks? You bet. But while many parents don’t go so far as to bribe test proctors, they do throw money, and heaps of it, at the post-secondary problem.
Actor Rob Lowe was quick to tweet about the scandal, praising his ‘hardworking sons’ for getting into college the old-fashioned way. Lowe has since deleted his tweet, possibly realizing that what he neglected the mention was that his successful Hollywood career and high pay days likely afforded his sons the best private schools, tutors and extra-curricular activities. We bet Lowe’s sons didn’t have to balance studying for a chemistry exam while working a part-time job to cover the cost of tuition, or go to class hungry, or try to focus on their school work while wondering where they were going to sleep that night.
Rich families often donate huge sums of money to colleges, with libraries, dorms and cafeterias bearing the names of donors. Do their children have an easier time getting accepted into a college that bares their family name? You bet. If Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli has used their $500,000 to build a library at USC, we likely wouldn’t be hearing their names involved in the scandal and their daughters would still be students.
Actor Zoe Kazan succinctly pointed out the hypocrisy of many celebs admonishing Loughlin and Huffman, highlighting the fact that many middle- and upper-income families use their financial means to help their children get into Ivy League schools.
not saying it’s the same AT ALL as breaking the law/bribing/etc. but let’s not pretend money isn’t helping kids get into college all the time, in ways big & small. even if one’s parents didn’t, say, give 2.5 million to one’s college of choice: https://t.co/mibkC3OTlQ
— zoe kazan (@zoeinthecities) March 12, 2019
Some of these parents are even the President.
A #CollegeCheatingScandal reminder: None of these people got into college without money changing hands.
They got into university the same way Melania got into the US: Cash moved them ahead of people with more merit.
It’s the American Way. pic.twitter.com/v0DzWPhDrj
— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) March 13, 2019
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez drew a parallel between post-secondary and politics.
I guess college admissions isn’t that different from elections, where lots of money can buy your spot too.
Also an enviro where those who make it despite the odds are suspected to not have “earned” it, not truly belong, or assumed to not be able to perform at the same level. https://t.co/YyD72C7uh1
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 13, 2019
Others voiced their disgust over the parents doing a disservice to their children, with actor Meredith Salenger outraged on behalf of students who ‘worked their asses off.’ She’s right too.
Don’t even joke. It is such a disservice to their children. So much entitlement. Teaches that u don’t have to work hard. It’s disgusting. Esp to those that work their asses off in school and do community service and care about getting a good education. Morality! Integrity!
— Meredith Salenger (@MeredthSalenger) March 12, 2019
Actor Mara Wilson is here for state schools.
Honestly if my kids want to go to college and this bullshit system is still around I’m doing whatever I can to try to get them to go to a state school
— Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson (@MaraWilson) March 13, 2019
The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison is concerned over the scandal’s title.
This college scandal is really called “Operation Varsity Blues”. You gotta love the feds have a sense of humor and great taste in movies. Personally I would’ve gone “Blue Chips”
— Chris Harrison (@chrisbharrison) March 12, 2019
Scott’s Tots wish they had someone to pay for college.
“Operation Varsity Blues” sounds like something Michael Scott cooked up
— Ike Barinholtz (@ikebarinholtz) March 12, 2019
Lena Dunham had a suggestion regarding how the money should have been spent. We would have taken music lessons from Professor Jesse and the Rippers.
all the people involved in this college scam should have gathered their money and started a small elite college where Lori Loughlin teaches a class on smiling
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) March 12, 2019
Admittedly, our favourite response is courtesy of James Van Der Beek.
If only there was a succinct turn of phrase these kids could have used to inform their parents they were not desirous of their life path… https://t.co/cxOTDI5J1B
— James Van Der Beek (@vanderjames) March 12, 2019
As I write this, I’m hours away from touring a daycare for my infant daughter. Like any parent, I want the best for her. My search for a daycare that provides a safe and fun learning environment has been exhaustive, and while nap schedules and snacks are two of the biggest factors in her happiness at this stage, the reality is that this decision of where she’ll spend her early years is the first step towards college. The quality of her daycare, with quality almost always directly correlated to cost, will help determine whether she’ll learn to read early, understand languages, be exposed to the arts, play sports, and make connections. Oh yeah, there’s networking in daycare.
In both Canada and the US, we’ve seen recent generations of graduates leave college and university with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, only to find that the degree they spent the past four years earning does not guarantee a job. We know that, yet the pressure on teens to attend post-secondary is still intense. In the US, the tier system in post-secondary schools makes where one attends college more important than the degree they obtain, with admission to Ivy League schools not only exposing students to lush campus lawns and beautiful brick buildings, but to famous, wealthy, and well-connected alumni who can open the door to careers that feel impenetrable to students who attend colleges with a less recognizable name. Even Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade, who has already launched a makeup business and is a successful YouTuber, has been vocally outspoken about not wanting to attend college, but was pressured by her parents to obtain a degree. If the rich and famous can’t get by without a diploma, what are the rest of us supposed to do?
We’re not arguing about whether bribing school officials, lying about having a learning disability, or paying someone to take a test for child is wrong. It is. Case closed. But the College Admissions Scandal is more complicated than that for two reasons.
One, it shines a light on how broken the post-secondary education system is, starting with the pressure to obtain a degree, all the way down to the importance placed on networking versus actual classroom learning.
Two, it begs the question that every parent grapples with each day. How far would you go to give your child the best life?