Dozens of rich parents were indicted last month for buying their children’s way into the country’s top schools. This just shows how the education system is built on a broken foundation, one that’s rigged for the wealthy from the start.
All my life teachers and counselors told me that if I worked hard and pushed myself I would get into a good college. I took Advanced Placement and honors classes stayed up for hours doing homework and kept my social life to a minimum.
Except honors classes and AP tests only got me so far. Like it or not, money is needed at nearly every step of the higher-education process and unfortunately, my family doesn’t have much of it. The college admissions scandal reminded me that no matter how hard some people work, money still trumps everything.
Living in a low-income home and having parents with limited knowledge of the educational system meant I did not have the connections — at least not any that could get me into Yale or USC — nor the ability to pay someone to take the ACT or SAT for me. I had to go to morning practice tests and stay after school to prepare for these exams.
William Singer, the Newport Beach counselor who organized the bribes and guaranteed admissions, carried out demands from hopeful parents.
The consultant described his line of work as “the side door” (opposed to the “front door” where students apply and are accepted on their own merits).
Rather than keeping the admissions game at a level playing field, this “side door” method took away the opportunity for so many, like myself, who applied with nothing but our own hard work.
Besides the ethical issues that come with cheating one’s way into college, access to higher education has always been easier for privileged students — even without consultants like Singer.
Before filling out an application, higher-income students already have an upper hand. They attend better high schools, can afford college prep courses and don’t need financial aid. The education system sets lower-income students up to fail.
As a community college student, I am angry and distraught that on top of having to work hard to transfer, I will continue to struggle at a financial level because I can’t afford to pay.
I know I’m not the only Santa Ana College student facing this anxiety.
Solutions to ending these kinds of college scams are not easy. De-stigmatizing other pathways like career technical schools would make elite academic pursuits less competitive. If we shut down the admissions process entirely, it would level the playing field by making college free and available to all.
Maybe then, education can be about talent and hard work instead of the money.