Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among those accused of participating in a university admission scandal in the United States.
On Tuesday, March 12, a list of 50 people accused of participating in a large-scale university admission fraud came to light. These people, among whom there are famous actors (such as Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, desperate Women), financial leaders and other business magnates, allegedly formed part of a plot for which sports coaches and exam supervisors received bribes to favor to their children on admission to the university in the United States.
However, the most wealthy families in the United States have multiple legal channels at their disposal to buy admission of their children to universities, although these are still promoted as meritocracies, an argument that has long been a fundamental part of perpetuating the American dream.
There is the option of donating a millionaire to a prestigious university, as did the father of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, by committing to donate 2.5 million dollars from Harvard University. There is also the option to pay for the best personalized services (tutors and preparers for letters and admission interviews) designed to help elites get their children into the select Ivy League of private colleges and other prestigious universities.
“People believe that meritocracy is real and wants to be part of it,” says Tressie McMillan Cottom, who has studied and analyzed different cases of university admission. However, compared to the advantages enjoyed by the powerful class, low-income and working-class families are far from competing in an equitable playing field, he says.
Ivy Coach’s specialized consultancy charges up to $ 1.5 million for the most complete service package, according to Brian Taylor, the company’s CEO. This company is promoted as a private service that helps its clients to apply for admission in up to 20 universities. It is “the definitive service of continuous and personal attention in detail”, describes its website.
Low-income and working class families are far from competing in an equitable playing field.
Taylor recognizes that the college admissions process is a game. The accused parents allegedly made the mistake of skipping the legal rules of that game.
Instead of paying to help them prepare for the exams, they are accused of bribing the exam supervisor to amend the incorrect answers given by their children in the entrance exams. Instead of paying to take their children from one extracurricular activity to another, they are accused of paying sports coaches to create false vacancies on their sports teams that their children did not even practice.
This presumed plot reveals crude truths about the horse race that university admission supposes.
“It’s a totally unfair system and we help students overcome an unfair system of an unfair game, but we do it ethically,” says Taylor.
The traps that the powerful use to gain access to exclusive universities usually happen outside the public eye. The accusation shows that the promise of equal opportunities to access higher education was false and has exposed the lie that has been sold to so many people about the reasons for the success of some people, according Cottom, assistant professor of Sociology at the Virginia State University.
The Internet has stratified the system further. It was supposed to democratize access to information about elite institutions, but these universities are not accepting more students as they receive more applications, but people with money are taking greater measures to obtain considerable advantages.
“People with the means to do so pay to access specialized information that is not available democratically,” says Cottom, author of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy the profit-seeking universities in the new economy].
“While the demands threaten to end positive discrimination (one of the systems that helps students with less income to access the best universities), there are no obvious signs that the universities will end any of the processes that favor the privileged, such as the advantages of admission by inheritance.”
Despite the positive discrimination, black and Hispanic students now have less representation than several decades ago in the best private universities in the Ivy League, according to The New York Times.
Bari Norman, co-founder and president of Expert Admissions, an advisory firm for university admissions, expresses her hope that this university scandal will serve as a wake-up call to universities, since the current system is broken. According to the American edition of the HuffPost, Norman suspects that admissions officers are currently debating the kind of environment that has led to the spreading of the alleged cheating and the kind of system that makes such parents desperate
However, Norman remains pessimistic about the likelihood of any major change.
Your company helps students attend classes and extracurricular activities when they still go to the institute to better position themselves in the face of the admission process. They usually work with students from 15 or 16 years old, although sometimes they start earlier.
Bari Norman does not want to specify how much the company charges for his services and points out that he sometimes works altruistically.
In Ivy Coach openly show their high prices, but it is a rate for which “do not apologize”, according to its website.
Taylor says that the admissions business operates in a free market economy and that your company’s rates serve to give specialized advice that helps students optimize their chances of being admitted to a prestigious university.
“We do not disagree with any company that has high fees, we absolutely disagree with the companies that bribe coaches or admissions managers,” he defends himself by e-mail, and adds: “Do not cheat on the [SAT] or ACT [aptitude exams]. Hire outstanding tutors (who probably also collect a lot of money) to help your children improve their grade tremendously.”