How privilege will get you further in the post-secondary education system
Most of us remember the stressful time of applying to university during the last year of high school. After all, many of us worked hard to get good marks and engaged in extracurriculars to get into university of our own accord; but, what if after all the hours you spent on getting into university, you were told your spot was given to someone who bribed their way in?
A scandal related to university admissions in the United States was recently revealed, wherein rich parents are accused of making $25 million in illegal payments to get their children into selective schools. The scandal has involved actresses like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, but the majority of the case centers around Rick Singer, who ran illegal payments through his college prep company called The Edge College and Career Network. The scandal has brought up how privilege plays a role in the university admissions process, and how easy it is for the elite to bypass the rules.
One of the methods parents used to get their children into top American schools was by bribing athletic staff or designating their children as recruits for various teams, such as in Loughlin’s case. It raises questions about how many athletes have earned their place, and how many of them received sports scholarships, which could make or break a less privileged individual’s chances at paying for university. Furthermore, the scandal is a blow to student-athletes who do put in the hours for training and in their academics, instead of using photoshopped pictures to get a place on the team.
Another issue that has been uncovered by the admissions scandal is the use of standardized tests as benchmarks for acceptance. While the testing system in the United States is known to be flawed, the fact that parents involved in the scandal were having others write the test for their children or abusing accessibility accommodations should be denounced. Not only will these students be entering university without some of the academic skills and knowledge they need, but they’ll likely make it harder for students that actually need accessibility accommodations to acquire them in the future.
On top of this particular university admissions scandal, it’s well known that rich parents or alumni donate large sums to universities in exchange for their children’s acceptance into top schools. Even if donations can help fill funding gaps or help researchers at post-secondary institutions, they shouldn’t be used under the guise of providing personal family favours behind closed doors. More generally, universities need to do a better job of scrutinizing who they get large donations from.
Beyond this particular admissions scandal, the truth is that not having the right background reduces your chances of university admittance from the outset. If you or your family doesn’t have the time or resources to hire tutors, participate in extracurriculars, or travel, then it becomes difficult to become the model student that universities look for. However, the affirmative action programs that try to address some of these issues are constantly under attack, often from the privileged group that gets into universities at disproportionately higher rates to begin with.
How privilege factors into university admissions is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to post-secondary education. Privilege matters enormously in university when you can afford all the associated costs, don’t have to work at the same time, and in the most extreme cases, paying off someone to write essays for you. Those who don’t struggle through university likely have time to network, take unpaid internships, or travel, which also gets them through the door faster at high paying or important job positions post-graduation.
Privilege in the post-secondary system has much deeper roots than the latest university admissions scandal in the United States. It is a set of both blatant and invisible advantages that affects students long after their first step on campus, and if you look around, you’ll see it here at StFX too.