50 individuals, including CEOs and Hollywood Stars, have been accused of involvement with a recent college admissions bribery scandal. As disclosed by United States federal prosecutors, those accused paid more than 25 million dollars to the mastermind behind the scheme, William Rick Singer, who used that money, in part, to facilitate cheating on standardized tests and funnel bribes to athletic coaches.
In one case, Mr. Rudy Meredith, head coach of the Yale women’s soccer team for 24 years, solicited a $450,000 bribe from the parent of a prospective college student in exchange for saving a Yale soccer recruitment spot for his daughter.
In another case, John Vandemoer, the coach of the sailing team at Stanford University, was charged with certifying an applicant who has never sailed before as a sailing team recruit in exchange for a payment of $110,000.
Mossimo Giannulli, fashion designer, and Lori Loughlin, a famous actress, have also been charged for paying $15,000 to William Singer, to arrange for someone to secretly correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT.
Yale, Stanford, USC, and other prestigious universities involved in the scandal are scrambling to contain the fallout, firing athletic coaches and promising to redirect the money received as bribery to fund scholarships for underprivileged students.
These revelations have been met with outrage and dissapointment across the nation, especially on college campuses. “When the rich, famous and influential game a system already susceptible to corruption, it perpetuates who remains in power,” said Jessica Wolfrom, a graduate student at Georgetown. In another example of exasperation on campus, two Stanford students brought a class-action complaint in a federal court in California, and accused eight colleges of negligence.
For those who have followed the rules of admissions, the path to college is defined by endless hours of studying, years and years of effort, and participation in a myriad of extracurricular activities – not unfamiliar to the community here at Belmont Hill. For these honest applications, the admissions scandal feels deeply unfair.
Yet, elite college institutions have never been wholly meritocratic. Legal routine favor trading and favoritism that have long corrupted the admissions process, leeching merit from the equation. In a particularly public case, Charles Kushner, father of the Senior Advisor to the President, Jared Kushner, pledged $2.5 million to Harvard just as his son was applying. Kushner was then admitted, despite having the GPA or SAT scores well below needed to warrant admission. Furthermore, “legacy” students have always extracted from the pool of deserving applicants. These are students that have at least one parent who have attended the institution. The admission rate for legacies at Harvard has continuously hovered around 30 percent. By contrast, the rate for the Class of 2022 as a whole was under 5 percent. These are just a few examples of economic disparities that have and will continue to plague access to higher education.
This college scandal, compounded with other recent stories like the qualified Asian-American students rejected by Harvard, have opened the eyes of Americans to the flawed system. Elite American universities are often cast as the envy of the world and the pinnacle of academia, but these cases have shown the admissions system as it truly is: exploitable, arbitrary, and broken.
In light of the brazen and elaborate lengths these parents have taken to secure a spot at an elite college, we must re-evaluate the importance placed on such colleges. We also need to stop lying to ourselves that the college admissions process is solely based on merit. Instead of this mad scramble to get into a top college, let’s focus on objectives that will have infinitely more bearing on our sense of fulfillment in life: the wisdom with which we choose our friendships and our interactions with the communities that we inhabit, to name a few.