A take on the 'Varsity Blues' scandal

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, March 27th, 2019 at 6:50 PM

The process of getting accepted into college is usually anything but easy. It requires years of preparation, dedication and hard work. Anyone who is committed to continuing their education after high school may even consider taking on extra SAT or ACT prep courses in order to obtain the highest grades possible to prove themselves worthy of the college of their choice, especially if that particular school is among the Ivy League.

Ideally, one could assume that college admissions officials would treat the process of admissions as a fair playing field, allowing each aspiring student a fair chance at getting into their dream school.  Unfortunately, the “Varsity Blues” scandal proved this to not necessarily be the case.

On March 12, federal prosecutors announced 50 elite social figures who bypassed the fair admissions process and took part in a scheme to bribe college officials and coaches into accepting their unqualified children into top colleges and Ivy League schools, including Stanford University, Yale and the University of Southern California. The bribing techniques included offering large sums of money to the school, or paying for their children’s high scores on standardized tests.

According to CNN, most parents paid SAT/ACT administrators between $15,000 and $75,000 per test in order to ensure their child’s success, while other parents took the route of bribing college coaches with sums of money up to $500,000 in order to recruit their child onto a sports team, even if they had never played that particular sport.

Of course, it’s going to be quite some time before the consequences of the scandal will be fully revealed, however, according to The Intelligencer, it has been alleged that each parent involved will most likely be charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of honest services mail fraud, among possible other charges.

Obviously, this scandal has not only shocked the entire country, but it has also brought to light an even deeper issue — the idea that the entire college system is set up in a way to favor the wealthy and privileged.

According to Wealth Management, 51 percent of state university administrators say their top focus is attracting full-pay students, and 10 percent of colleges admitted that the wealthy students they were accepting earned lower test scores and grade point averages than other applicants.

Not to mention, it’s seemingly obvious that most elite colleges depend on their social status. Colleges believe that they need these coveted wealthy teenagers to help them inch up in the rankings, or at least prevent themselves from dropping a few notches.

So, the real question is: why are colleges more focused on their image than education? Higher education should be a tool that can be used for all, regardless of social status or money. Education is the building block of a stronger society, therefore it is something that should be attainable to all, or at least fair game for consideration.

In an ideal world that has never existed, admissions decisions should be based solely on factors for which the applicant is personally responsible, such as grades, test scores, demonstrated leadership, athletic or artistic talents, and a record of helping others.

The favoring of the wealthy is making it a lot harder for the people who truly start from the bottom. There is obviously a need to create new and powerful incentives for colleges and universities so they can enroll, educate and graduate more students from disadvantaged or unprivileged backgrounds.    

Abby Martinson | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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