The only thing more surprising than the buy-your-way-into-college scandal was that it came as news to anybody. Sure, some new tactics were reveals — such as bribing coaches and having someone correct your ACT answers — but buying your way into college is as old as, say, Yale.
Not that there haven’t been some amusing moments, like when Lori Loughlin’s kid — whose mother spent $500,000 in bribes to have her designated as a recruit for the So Cal crew team as a way to get in — goes on social media to admit she has little to no interest in ever going to class anyway. That’s OK, Ma and Pa can always buy you a degree too, sweetie.
In fact, it has become something of a well-established quid pro quo for wealthy individuals who endow departmental chairs or new buildings in exchange for admitting their kids. Jared Kushner had a high school GPA and SATs more appropriate for City College. But then his criminal father ponied up $2.5 mil — and suddenly, he’s at Harvard, otherwise one the of the hardest colleges in the country to get into. Money talks.
But helping your kid get into college -- by whatever means necessary -- is simply an extension of how many families of means leverage their assets to provide their kids with every possible chance to succeed. This includes private lessons and coaching in anything that could matter on a college entrance resume: music lessons, sports camps, tutors as necessary, summer jobs at high-profile firms, unpaid internships that poorer families could never afford to take, and yes, donations to the right places at the right time.
Is this bad parenting? Does it set a bad example for your kids that there are ways to cut corners, and that playing by the rules — you know, earning your way with honesty and hard work — is only for suckers and poor people? Perhaps.
But this is not a way of life exclusive to getting into college. People of means who choose to can move to the front of almost any line. Best sports or theatre seats? “Let me make a call.” Table at the most exclusive new restaurant? “Right this way, sir…” How do you think Washington got to be such an ungovernable mess? “I’ll put you right through to the Senator now…”
The odds have always been and always will be stacked in favor of those with money, power and influence. Yet, these are the same folks who give millions to worthwhile causes that often help others — including those who otherwise could never afford to go to college.
So ask yourself: if one of those families supported a cause that directly benefited one of your interests or family members, would you still begrudge them leveraging their power, influence and wealth to get their kids into college? Especially if you consider a massive endowment to be only a larger-scale bribe than, say, the one to the crew coach at USC?
As we continue to move toward a nation of the very wealthy and the very poor (kiss your ass goodbye, middle class) it’s time to abandon the myth that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. There were privileged classes at the signing of the Constitution, and they are still with us.
We should not forgive their breaking laws to get their kids in colleges. But being of means does not automatically make them enemies of the people.