College admissions process in the spotlight amid reported bribery scheme


Kasey Harvey

The University of Texas at Austin, along with several other high profile schools such as Yale, Duke, USC, and UCLA, were just some of the schools named as part of a wide reaching college admissions scandal. The scandal has led some people on campus to question the entire college admissions process.

A reported bribery scheme by wealthy parents to help their children gain admission into high level universities, has led to the indictment of dozens of people, with some parents having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on guaranteeing their children a spot in the schools.

“I’ll speak more broadly, there were essentially two kinds of fraud that [William Rick Singer] was selling,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a CNN article. “One was to cheat on the SAT or ACT, and the other was to use his connections with Division I coaches and use bribes to get these parents’ kids into school with fake athletic credentials.”

The impact of the scandal is reverberating through colleges and high schools across the country.

“I think this scandal really illuminates the inequity that exists to attain higher education,” senior Ria Bhasin said. “What the people did was inherently wrong, not only does it fails their children, but it hurts every kid applying for college.”

I think this scandal really illuminates the inequity that exists to attain higher education, ”

— senior Ria Bhasin

The students involved in the admissions scandals used a so-called “side door” to gain admission into universities.

“This outright, bald faced bribery leaves a bad taste in my mouth and there needs to be some reform,” history teacher Jeff Crowe said. “The American dream is based on if you work hard, then you’ll be rewarded- it shouldn’t be based on this cryptocracy. It’s the corruption that I think needs to be fixed.”

Students were given admission to top universities such as Yale, Duke, USC, and the University of Texas on an account of their family wealth, rather than on a basis of their merit.

“The college admissions is not as merit based as I really thought it was,” Bhasin said. “I was aware that access to education really is based on the amount of wealth you have but I did not realize how deep this problem is. This scandal really put into perspective the problem at hand.”

The indictments shed light on what many people believe is an attempt to maintain an elitist status quo, that places those with a higher socioeconomic status at an advantage to individuals from lower class backgrounds.

“I think it’s just bringing to light the inequities of the whole process,” Crowe said. “It’s unfortunate that this is happening, but it’s not surprising to me because parents obviously want to help their children. Affluent families have an advantage and are in a position to do that for their children; what’s unfair about it, obviously, is that there are hardworking kids from less affluent families that those spots are evaporating from because less qualified kids who have families with connections are taking those spots. It’s just kind of bringing to light the inequities of our whole system.”

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Under the current college admissions system, it can be difficult to gain complete access to students’ information.

“I think in general, it’s unfortunate that a select few entitled people take it upon themselves to cheat the system. I think it’s a difficult thing to address, to figure out how colleges can better base college acceptance on the students’ merits because they they don’t have perfect information regarding any candidate,” counselor Ryan Kiefer said. “Having said that, I think it’s difficult from a college standpoint, because they don’t have perfect information. So it’s very difficult for them to evaluate the tens of thousands of applicants or applications that they get to determine which are the best ones. Obviously, in these few instances the system was was cheated and those students were able to obtain a position that they didn’t deserve, which of course is not anything that we’d want.”

With the cases of alleged bribery making news across America, Crowe believes the current scandal could pave a pathway towards a more equitable system that further analyzes many aspects of the college admissions process.

I think in general, it’s unfortunate that a select few entitled people take it upon themselves to cheat the system,”

— counselor Ryan Kiefer

“My thoughts are that it’s good that this is happening because it’s kind of pulling the carpet back a little bit and we’re getting to see exactly how the process works,” Crowe said. “You can make the argument that it’s not just this kind of outright bribery that is unfortunate or that is unfair, but also, think about the legacy system where if your parents went here, you can get into the college- well is that fair? You have this system designed to preserve the status quo and to keep families of wealth and families of privilege at the top while other segments of society will never have that same opportunity no matter how hard they work. There is a slight injustice to the whole thing.”

In order to improve the system behind college admissions, Kiefer views careful analysis of the admissions as a key to prevent injustices within the process.

“I think there probably needs to be some sort of oversight and committee that would double check and make sure it is a valid process,” Kiefer said. “I think if there’s no oversight committee than people wind up getting away with was essentially boils down to fraud.”

With the current scandalous and turbulent culture within the college admissions system, Crowe hopes that in the future, the process of applying to college is reformed.

“I think if you look in the future, 20 or 30 years from now, I think college admissions are going to be completely different,” Crowe said. “There’s going to be a lot of political pressure and a lot of social pressure to affect the change, and the way that that happens is your have stories like this. I think the situation is terrible but it’s good in a way because if you don’t know that there’s a problem change really won’t happen. I think that you’re going to see more and more colleges go to SAT optional, test optional admissions. I think you’re going to see more opportunities for lower socioeconomic students who will have the ability to get free tuition.”