Wealth, Privilege, and The Status of a College Degree…

On Tuesday, a very random, but not entirely shocking, scandal broke. The Department of Justice indicted 50 people in a giant scheme to bribe elite universities into accepting unworthy applicants. Charged in this plot were: coaches, school administrators, wealthy CEOs, and random celebrities, such as Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) and Lori Loughlin (Full House). This story made international headlines, evoking anger from people who say this once again proves that there are a different set of rules for the wealthy. For me, this case has led to many different thoughts: anger at the class system this country refuses to acknowledge, sadness in the fact that parents, this generation especially, care more about image than their child’s wants and needs, and annoyance with the college admission process that could be so easily scammed.     

Bring on the trolls

I hate Twitter, it’s why we (I) don’t tweet very much for our blog. Twitter is a giant cesspool of trolls. That being said, Twitter is at its peak when rich people do something stupid. The middle class comes out from behind their suburban fences and starts a roast so perfect in size and content that even the greatest comedians can’t compete. This was true after the Fyre Festival and was true this past Tuesday. Katie C. and I spent much of our work day sending each other tweet after tweet, each one funnier than the last. And while it is fun to make fun of the rich and the privileged, this response represents a building frustration from those without this wealth and privilege. In today’s society we love to talk about privilege, but often not discussed with the same passion and seriousness, is the privilege of wealth. Whenever this is brought up, cries of jealousy and socialism are immediately raised to squash any meaningful conversation. The middle and lower classes are not asking for that wealth to be spread around, all they simply want is a fighting chance. The truth is that many of these wealthy kids do not need to go to college. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t go just because their parents have enough money to support them for the rest of their lives, but college for them is just a chance to mingle and network in social circles they are already a part of. These kids were going to be successful despite a degree. But for many, college represents a new beginning, a chance to better themselves and to provide a better future for their children. For each spot that was given to one of these kids, a spot was stolen from someone that worked their ass off to earn it. This is a tremendous concern in a world where a college degree is almost a necessity.

The path to an education

Many of these kids were granted admission to the university because they were given a spot on an athletic team, despite not actually participating in that sport. Some even went as far as to photoshop their kids face onto bodies of athletes. Nine coaches were arrested for taking bribe money. They include the Yale women’s soccer coach, the Stanford sailing coach, the Georgetown tennis coach, the Wake Forest women’s volleyball coach, the University of Southern California (USC) assistant and head women’s soccer coaches, the USC men’s head soccer coach, the USC water polo coach, and the University of Texas men’s tennis coach.

Here’s “a not so secret” secret: college is expensive, way too expensive. Most kids have to take out some kind of loan to pay for their education, often leaving them (myself included) in a world of debt when they are finally handed that degree. Debt that will take kids years and years to pay off, if they can pay it at all, meaning an entire generation has already lost the race before they even got to the starting line. Athletics is a way for kids to avoid this debt, or for some kids, it’s a way to receive an education that they would not otherwise have access to. My mom was the first person in her family to go to and graduate from college, something she was only able to do because of her basketball talent. Graduating from college opened a world of doors for her and it is the reason I am typing this today. (Literally had she not gone to college, she would have never met my father.) To know that these coaches, parents, and kids took a spot on a sports team from someone else is disgusting. These coaches closed a door on kids, in favor of a kid who was born with a key to open that door. It is these coaches and school administrators that I save most of my anger for. Parents are crazy, but to accept a bribe at the expense of those who are truly worthy is unforgivable.

Generation Cupcake

This all represents a far bigger issue in our society. In today’s world image is everything and many will take whatever means necessary to project a certain image to the world. Parents project an image for their children as soon as they are born. They imagine them being the CEO of a major company, a scientist curing the most horrible diseases, or the President of the United States. While most parents will grow out of this fantasy and help their children foster their unique talents, others will never lose their projected image. This is how we have ended up with “generation cupcake.” This generation was raised by the parents that think their children are “special” despite evidence to the contrary. They are why teachers and coaches are quitting every day in this country. It’s why everyone gets a trophy and why schools aren’t allowed to hand out failing grades. This does our children no good. We have inflated their egos to make ourselves feel better, while ignoring the talents our children truly have, leaving an entire generation lost with no foundation of reality. For these kids, mommy and daddy will always fix it. They didn’t make the soccer team, mommy will fix it. They failed their English test because they didn’t do the assigned reading, mommy will fix it. They can’t get a high enough score on the SAT to get into Yale, don’t worry, mommy will fix it. In this case, mommy will either pay someone to take the test for you, change your incorrect answers to the correct ones, or arrange for you to take the test in a special location, so someone can simply tell you the answers. This is all done so they can buy a Yale sweatshirt, wear it to the country club, and brag about the fact that their kid goes to Yale.

Not once in this scandal did the parents ever ask what their children wanted. They never took the time to look at their child and say, where is the right place for you? Where will you succeed? Where will you get the most out of your education? Graduating from college is an accomplishment, it doesn’t matter the name on the degree. I went to Saint Joseph’s University, a small Jesuit university in Philadelphia. While it might not be as prestigious as Yale or Harvard, it was the perfect place for me. It allowed me to truly explore and cherish my education. Going to SJU is a choice that I would make again and again. It was a school that I only found because my parents took the time to sit with me and truly consider all my options.

Olivia Jade: the face of the college scandal

    Olivia Jade is the daughter of Lori Loughlin. She and her sister, Isabella,  got into USC because her parents paid $500,000 to buy them spots on the crew team. A sport they never have, and currently do not, participate in. Olivia has become the student face of this scandal because she comes off as the perfect embodiment of an entitled and privileged member of “generation cupcake.” Olivia Jade is an Instagram model and YouTuber. She has turned that into a career, so much so that college was something she neither needed nor wanted. She admitted this publicly, in a Youtube video, saying that she only went to college because her parents made her and that she wasn’t very excited about going to school. But since the scandal broke she has been dropped as a model by the makeup store Sephora and on Thursday, Olivia’s mother was fired from her Hallmark show because in the real world when people break the law there are consequences. Ironically, if additional sponsors continue to withdraw their support, Olivia may end up needing that college education she didn’t want and it will be her parents’ fault for intervening so forcefully into her life.  A harsh lesson that society had to teach Olivia because her parents had failed her. Even worse for her is that the FBI has suggested that many of these kids may not have even known that their parents had bought their way into college. Imagine believing that you earned a place in the college of your choice only to learn that your parents bought you that spot. What does that do to a person? How do you react when you learn that your parents have little to no faith in your abilities or intelligence? How can your relationship ever be the same after having your dream career striped away from you because your parents meddled where they shouldn’t have? What do you say knowing your parents are facing jail time because they broke the law to force you to do something you didn’t want to do because they refuse to let you, an adult, be in control of your life? These are the questions Olivia Jade must now answer and no amount of money would ever make me want to be in her place.

Adjusting the process

Finally, we must reevaluate a college admission system that can be so easily taken advantage of. The way to do this is to change the way we evaluate students. I have long had issues with the practice of standardized testing. As someone with dyslexia, these tests have always been very difficult for me. I became very discouraged and as a result my college admissions process was long, stressful, and there were many nights that ended in tears. I kind of wish that my dad had had $6 million (actual amount paid by one family) in disposable income to bribe someone to take the test for me. I had a teacher my senior year that finally saved me from utter despair. He told me that these tests, the SAT and ACT, do not measure intelligence. I now know that he was right. Those tests are meant to see if you know how to take a test, to be more specific, can you take a test the way that “they”, whoever “they” are, want you to. It is the reason why some kids with perfect 4.0s can’t get a good score despite hours and hours of studying. Or why kids with horrible grades can pull out a perfect score even though they haven’t so much as opened a book. These tests are designed to trick you. One of the many ways that kids pull out good scores, besides cheating, is by spending thousands of dollars on prep classes that tell you how to take it. A prep class that many might not be able to afford or have access too. It’s also worth noting that you have to pay to take these tests. These tests do not tell colleges anything about the prospective student. They don’t tell them their wants, their passions, what they plan to study, what they will bring to the university, or how they plan on using their education. Admission to college should be based on high school grades, extracurricular activities, and either a personal essay or interview. Even without these tests, Harvard will still be Harvard, as this will not make it easier to get in. Furthermore, athletes should still have to meet university admission standards, period.

We also need to stop believing that college is the only way to succeed. This is hard when almost every job requires a degree. In my recent job search, I saw hundreds of jobs that required a college degree despite that the skills needed for the job did not merit any form of higher education. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with working a blue collar job. This country was built by blue collar workers. Go to trade school. In fact, just do what you want to do. Find your passion and follow it. Do not let your parents or society define you.     

This scandal is not going away anytime soon. Just today a $500 million lawsuit was filed against the schools implicated in this scheme. People are tired of this rigged and unjust system. More will be revealed in the coming weeks. I imagine this has long been practiced in our ever growing competitive world. There are also plenty of ways to legally bribe your kids into college. By simply knowing the right people or by giving the college a large sum of money in the form of a donation, (this just proves how stupid these parents were) your kid is admitted.  Something has to change, how or when is another question entirely.


💚 Katie M.


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