Opinion: College Scandal & the Modern Reality of Rich Privilege in the USA

Joshua Brase, staff artist.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Upon recent investigations, it turns out that the age-old adage has been proven true: real athletes are made when nobody’s watching. The catch—it only takes a few hundred grand secretly sent to a shady charity fund to become an internationally accredited soccer player (complete with pictures to prove it)! It seems as if every person in the world has seen at least a glimpse of the news headlining what the Los Angeles Times refers to as the “largest college admissions scandal ever” or witnessed the disapproving clucks and slowly-shaking heads on late night news channels because of what seems to be the greatest step backward in 21st century education. OK, maybe I am being a bit dramatic; but in any case, even the most oblivious individual has seen at least a mention of this phenomenon through social media or even a clever “Aunt Becky” meme poking fun at Lori Loughlin who was involved in this hot mess. However, for those living-under-the-rock Wolfpacket loyals, I will enlighten you.

Recently, dozens of wealthy actresses, business leaders, and other wealthy, “well-meaning” (sarcasm) parents have allegedly been involved in bribery scandals in order to get their kids accepted into elite colleges at literally any cost. They have been caught using a variety of “witty” methods to make their children’s greatest college dreams a reality. The first approach involved Mark Riddell, a Harvard graduate who could “nail a score.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Riddell is accused of taking SAT and ACT exams for students or tweaking their scores after the students finished their tests. Whether the parents demanded that their child “earn” a near perfect score or a more modest 1450, Riddell could do it all with ease. The second approach was a bit more intricate. College coaches of esteemed universities such as Stanford, Yale, Georgetown, USC, UCLA, Wake Forest, and University of Texas at Austin were also in on the fun. Coaches are accused of pocketing millions of dollars for aiding students in admissions by claiming they were top-tier athletes that their program needed to recruit. However, many of these students actually had no involvement in these sports, so for evidence, their faces were photoshopped onto the bodies of actual athletes.

While this enormous scandal makes for excellent gossip in the teachers’ lounge or among indignant students who did not know that there was an option to sit out of the three hour SAT test, upon closer investigation, it is evident that nobody benefitted from this transgression. Wealthier students who were admitted to top-notch schools now walk through their college campus quickly and with their heads down low so that nobody will accuse them of also “buying” their admissions letter. On the other hand, the lower class students who could not afford the hefty tuition of fancy private schools clench their fists and bite their tongues of yet another consequence of the uneven playing field that is the education system. A newfound argument arises against NCAA athletes who benefit from the compromised academic standards that come only for those who are athletically gifted, and athletes feel the need to validate their rightly earned spot at the universities they attend. Trust has been breached between coaches and college admissions officials, and rejected students bitterly reflect on the possibility that it could have been their spot at USC that was wrongfully displaced at the expense of the co-captain of the Japan national soccer team (spoiler alert: this student was never actually on the Japan national soccer team).

If there is any silver lining to this grim and gruesome situation, it is that the underlying weaknesses of the US education system has finally been exposed for all to see—and hopefully fix. While this particular scenario is extreme (not to mention illegal), it only emphasizes the unfairly weighted admissions “game” that is currently set in place. The wealthy already have the advantage of a hefty donation made out to help fund the new library renovations, possible alumni connections, a high-quality private school education, private coaches, and private tutors that help boost SAT scores and revise college applications. Yet in the end all of that was still not enough. Some parents felt that even with all the cards in their hands, they still needed to cheat. At the other end of the spectrum, students without the funds, connections, and tutors are expected to compete and even outperform those who are already propped up on their gold-plated stepping stool. Yet the general wealthy population throw their hands up in outrage at the very thought that a first-generation college student may have stolen their rightful spot at their dream university.

Students with more privilege need to take a closer look at themselves as well. Many families living in the quaint and affluent college town of Claremont whose children attend CHS fit in this privileged category. This privilege could be the advantage of not needing to work a minimum wage job everyday after school to support our families, freeing our schedule to participate in a sport, club, or other extracurricular. This privilege could be spending hundreds of dollars for SAT prep classes or having a tutor to help boost grades. Instead of playing the disturbed and distressed victim in this college admissions scandal, it would be of better use of our time to see the problem for what it is and not what we want it to be. While we stand shaking our fists at the names on the list of parents who “bought” their children a spot at their dream college, we must first take a deep and thorough look at ourselves and the privilege that we also wear on our sleeves.