Admission Scandal Snares Celebs Among Others


Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website

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119 Responses

  1. Avatar Tracy Downey says:

    This. Story. Is. Wild!

    My daughter lives in Malibu, attends Santa Monica Jr. College then plans to transfer to either UCLA or Columbia. Although she has opportunities to enter an Ivy League university, none of them include bribing a university or faking test scores or disabilities.

    As I reflect during my 40 days in the southern desert on my own spiritual path, this just feels like another lesson in morality-no matter how good of a person you may appear to be, God reveals the hypocrisy of everything.

    I could choose to be snarky considering the faking disabilities on test scores…really sticks in my craw…but I’m taking the high road.

    possessing all the money in the world doesn’t perfect vanity or pride…It corrupts basic principles.


  2. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    “Singer’s clients paid him anywhere between $200,000 and $6.5 million for this service”

    So the clients who paid $6.5M… I’m wondering if they feel totally cheated, or know that it was maybe slightly a bargain?

    Its possible that as a sales professional my takeaways from this are all wrong.Report

  3. Avatar Stillwater says:

    When did it become wrong for parents to want a better life for their children than they had?Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    So the thing that was actually illegal about this was mail fraud?


    (Out of curiosity, how did this stuff come to light? I assume someone rolled over…)Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I like the whole, “My kid has a learning disability and needs extra time.” Then you pay for a private proctor, who is on the take and is willing to change enough wrong answers to make sure the kid scores high enough.

    That’s just, wow!

    Although the whole, “Get my kid on the crewing team, even though they last time they rowed a boat, it was a canoe at summer camp” is also a hoot.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    I guess I’m most surprised about the size of some of the payments. I mean, if you approach the school and simply tell them, “I’m prepared to give a $6.5M gift, contingent on my children being accepted,” how many schools are going to say no? Unless your kids are just completely unprepared and unqualified, I suppose.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      Princeton’s endowment is currently $25.9B
      Stanford’s endowment is currently $26.5B

      $6.5M gets you a meeting… maybe a tie-breaker vote if your idiot child can’t pass the sniff test.

      At the college I support? Your child gets first choice of dorm rooms in our one dorm (well, two dorms, one male one female… but you only get to pick from one)… and we’d probably put you on the board in hopes you’ll do it again.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        My guess is that you are going to need a contribution/bribe in the tens of millions to get less than brilliant kids into something like HYPS. Yale is the only true Ivy involved in this scandal though. Most of the schools probably have endowments where 6.5 million in a contribution would be enough.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          They should have tried to get the kid into Brown, Cornell, Columbia, or (snicker) Dartmouth.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          You know, reading more on this I think I’m getting a new sense of what was happening.

          It isn’t simply making a donation and getting your kid a seat on the ride – we know that’s tried and true… but here’s the thing, that also leaves a fingerprint. And in this digital age it would follow their child/protege around and be a potential negative for anything other than a garden variety VP position in Marketing at Corp XYZ.

          This was about building a Profile that would pass scrutiny 25-yrs hence. That’s why the SAT/ACT bribery is perhaps more significant… they had to show that not only were they admitted, but they *should* have been admitted. That’s why the bizarre “student athlete recruit” status was so clever… its an almost imperceptible way to get the special “red-sticker” on you application as it gets reviewed.

          To all intents and purposes, it would look like these children had the correct profile and scores to go to Princeton… they didn’t bribe the school (which might be obvious) they figured out how to move their profiles to the top of the pile so that it looks legit now, and in the future.

          That’s why you pay a concierge service to get your child into the right kind of school… precisely because its not detectable. Genius, really.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David says:

            They built a back story.

            When this first broke, I was wondering “why?” People have been paying to go to these schools for literally centuries. But then, as you say, it’s not the “Going”, it’s the “Earning.”Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      It matters to the extent that it makes people think the game is rigged and this causes people to loss faith in institutions and democratic norms.Report

  7. Avatar George Turner says:

    Back in my day, students would just ply Princeton admissions officials with prostitutes.

    I’m looking at you, Joel Goodson.Report

  8. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    I teach college, and yet when I hear the news stories these days about higher ed, I go into “Burn it all down and bring back apprenticeships” mode. Gads but humanity is venal and awful.

    And I feel that way even though I know if we closed down all the universities and went back to apprenticeships I’d starve, because I literally can’t do anything BUT teach college.Report

  9. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    So Huffman was a housewife desperate to get her kid into a good school?Report

  10. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    If you have $500k in cash lying around to pay for this then you have enough money for expensive and absurd but legal ways to put your fingers on the scales. Tutors. Founding a First Robotics Team. Special Training.

    The only way this makes sense is the kid is a Senior and it’s “oh fish, let’s run around and do things at the very last minute to make up for not doing things years ago”. My kids have studied off and on for years to take the SAT and have done so multiple times.

    And… oh… bribing coaches. So the women’s rowing coach takes a kid into the college as an athlete, then he fires her and she loses her scholarship, but she’s in the college by that point and doesn’t care if she needs to pay her own way.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Before I link to this, let me just say that I’m sure that there are Trump-related college scandals.


    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I think the accusation here is pretty wild and great pro-Trump trolling.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      And by great I mean D-minus trolling that even Michael Wohl would be embarrassed by.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      Technically this is Trump’s FBI putting a stop to this. So he’s standing up to the establishment and rich and whatever.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Let’s break down your trolling and the trolling of the

      1. The headline says that their tennis instructor is part of the scandal;

      2. He was a coach at Georgetown. Neither of Obama’s daughters went to Georgetown. He coached them for extra cash;

      3. Your statement and the statement of the article implies that he was their instructor at Georgetown;

      4. Hence you are implying the Obamas’ are part of this scandal. Great work for your 4 am slot on local talk radio!!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Dude, the only thing I posted was “Before I link to this, let me just say that I’m sure that there are Trump-related college scandals” and a link to a news story from a journalism organization.

        If you’d like to argue that the journalism organization is “Fake News” and using clickbaity headlines in order to sensationalize scandals… okay.


        I agree 100%.

        That doesn’t make it not *FUNNY*, though.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      A good article in The Atlantic mentions that Jared Kushner was a mediocre student who got into Harvard shortly after his dad donated $2.5 million to it.

      It concludes with this:

      At elite colleges, athletic recruitment is arguably another form of affirmative action for the wealthy. As my colleague Saahil Desai has written, Harvard’s admissions office, for instance, gives a major boost to athletes with middling academic qualifications. Athletes who score a four (out of six) on the academic scale Harvard uses to judge applicants were accepted at a rate of about 70 percent, Desai reported; the admit rate for nonathletes with the same score was 0.076 percent. And research suggests that these athletic recruits tend to come from middle-class white families. Julie J. Park, an education professor at the University of Maryland, concludes in her 2018 book, Race on Campus: Debunking Myths With Data, that as many as 40 percent of Harvard’s white students are legacies or recruited athletes.

      Fraud and bribery are shocking, yes. But fraud and bribery’s lawful cousins—legacy preferences, athletic recruitment, and other admissions practices that lower the bar for progeny of the rich and famous—are ubiquitous.

      Yale’s soccer coach took a $400,000 bribe for one student.

      This is making me realize how honest Kentucky basketball is, since none of the player’s parents have enough money to bribe a meter maid.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        Part of the game wrt such athletic scholarships is that they are for sports you generally won’t see outside of upper middle class or private schools. Crew, for instance, is not a sport most inner city or poor rural kids have the opportunity to even try.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Harvard’s list of varsity sports consists of baseball, basketball, crew, cross-country, fencing, field hockey, football, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, sailing, skiing, soccer, softball, squash, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling.

          A whole lot of middle class parents depend on their kid being really good at one of those less prominent sports. At Division I schools, “football generates more revenue than the next 35 sports combined”. So other than football, basketball, baseball, and maybe wrestling, it does look like a sports list that Thurston Howell the Third would come up with. It’s just missing badminton, cricket, and croquet.

          But this also goes back to the question of why we even have varsity sports. The revenue generators like football have one answer, but the other sports seem to be serving as an alternate admissions/tuition system that can grant special favors. From the indictments, at least some of the coaches know this and are running a side-business, and if I recall correctly, one of the coaches shared the money with the school.Report

  12. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    My main consolation for this stuff is that so much of it Just. Doesn’t. Matter. To wit, on another site, a commenter tells the story of the flaky daughter of a billionaire who got herself into some super prestigious college despite being a “B” student due to Daddy’s (and Grandaddy’s) gift of a $100 million Fancy New Medical Building.

    She flunked out about a year and a half later. If Daddy were a little smarter, he’d have seen that coming. Maybe he did, but he just didn’t want to be the one to break the news, and thought that the Fancy New Medical Building was worth it in its own right?

    Who knows, really? I vacillate between thinking what college you get in is Really Important (network effects rule!) and Not Important At all. Most of the people I admire most have unimpressive college credentials.


    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      It matters to the extent that it makes people think the game is rigged and this causes people to loss faith in institutions and democratic norms.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        That. That exactly.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        One of the revelations that came out of the Russian meddling in 2016 was that they played both sides of the fence.
        I discovered that some of the fiery lefty Facebook sites that I liked may have been Russian trolls.

        The idea behind the trolling was simply to fan the flames of distrust and chaos, to get Americans to lose faith in our institutions, and in the idea of truth itself to get everyone to simply surrender to corruption and the feeling of passivity and indifference.

        “They are all corrupt and there’s nothing that can be done” is the ultimate victory of authoritarianism.Report

        • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

          You and Saul make a really good point.

          As a side note, I avoid “fiery” sites like the plague. I’m inherently suspicious of them. Even if I share a point of view with them.

          Apparently, that makes me very unusual. I mean, yeah, I would be happy to do a Husky Stadium Spellout at football games, because, what are the consequences? But mostly when someone is cheerleading and trying to wind me up, I resist.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          What I’ve been thinking most about this scandal is how everyone is seemingly using it as proof of their priors. One of my chicken and egg philosophical meanderings lately is whether our ideologies makes us choose our villains or does our choice of villains determine their ideologies.

          The first part is not surprising there seem to be a lot of stories where everyone can agree that the actions are a scandal and a shame. But everyone then disagrees on the cause of the scandal, the villains, and the solutions.

          I agree with Jaybird that this is a scandal but I don’t agree with him at all on the solution.

          There seems to be a widespread view that the economy is rigged in favor of a small class of winners. This class ranges from .1 to 10 percent of the population depending on whom you ask but it all breaks down when it gets to solutions and villains. The right and left wings have their own and can’t meet and compromise. So playing both sides is right.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I agree with Jaybird that this is a scandal but I don’t agree with him at all on the solution.

            (Wait… What do I see as the solution?)Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              Affordable public-university education where students do not need to take out massive loans in order to attend. A social welfare state that allows for people to feel secure without needing to win the rat race.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                That may or may not be a good idea, but has next to nothing to do with the story at hand which involves the elite explicitly avoiding any such accessible institutions in favor of those that sell exclusivity.

                Which is, in fact, very much why I am suspicious of affordable public-university education as any sort of remedy to economic or social inequality.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                (purses lips)
                I see the first as something that would be nice in the same way that a zero-carb chocolate lava cake with zero-carb ice cream would be nice, I also don’t know that it’s possible (though I do think that affordable community college educations are possible).

                As for social welfare states… while I think that would be nice, I don’t see how that would help *HERE*.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      Princeton’s graduation rate is 96.8% (97.8% if you calculate 8-yrs) – Stanford’s is similar.

      Princeton is not in the business of winnowing… that’s why you spend the $$ to get on the conveyor belt… the meritocracy isn’t meritocratic.

      I think Noah Millman had a couple of interesting thoughts on the matter.

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        the meritocracy isn’t meritocratic.

        This is the most damning statement I’ve seen associated with this scandal yet.

        That said, this is 100% on the parents doing the gaming and everybody else involved has plausible deniability. The coach can say “Hey, I thought she was on the crew team!”, the college can say “Hey, I thought he had a 35 on the ACT!”, and only the parents and the coaching adjunct will see consequences.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          I’m not really sure what the appetite is for any sort of national “Admissions Audit” … that’s the other side of this, whom these colleges admit to their private association is kinda their own business.

          That’s why Millman’s idea is so intruigingly challenging… let them set what ever bar they wish as a “qualified” applicant. Princeton says they accept 7% (out of approx 30k apps). If we assume for simplicity’s sake the the unqualified apps they now get are replaced by “qualified” apps that thought they had no chance… then let each applicant have a 7% chance of admission via lottery. Make it public, make it an event, celebrate it. Heck, I’d even be ok if they had three Tiers of applicants like a sports lottery… some applicants have 10% chance, others 7%, and the “barely” qualified, 4% (assuming someone with math skills checks my math).

          And let a solid 10% be sent down each year. Not down into oblivion, just down to… um, Dartmouth? (Full disclosure my Sis went to Dartmouth, hi Sis 🙂 ).

          I mean, if we care at all about the myth of Meritocracy… I’m not terribly invested in it, but then I’m odd.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I support a weak meritocracy because, let’s face it, there are some jobs that are more important than others, some people who are better at things than others, and it is possible to look at two products and say “this product is better than that one”.

            And we all benefit when the meritocracy works. Even those with more moderate amounts of merit.

            Now, I don’t support a strong meritocracy because the race is not always to the strong nor the battle to the wise nor the bread to the swift but time and chance something something. And, let’s face it, this stuff can be gamed pretty easily.

            It’s not that meritocracy is *GOOD*, it’s that it sucks less.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine says:

              Sure, but what is a weak meritocracy? The one where you need a college degree to work as a barista?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think a weak meritocracy is one where we kinda strive for having the best and the brightest do the important stuff, but we have eyes wide open to the fact that we’re not good judges at who is best, bright, or at what is important.

                But when the best and brightest happen to luck out and find themselves with their hands on the important tasks, stuff’s better.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                I get the sentiment… but I’m not sure it qualifies as a meritocracy then. What you are describing is more or less the critique that meritocracy levels at aristocracy.

                We all want to be ruled and governed by the best and brightest (and good… but that’s not a category for education any more). The meritocracy promises to remove the ambiguity and the generational heritability from the system.

                If we reintroduce ambiguity and heritability… then, as I said above, the Meritocracy isn’t meritocratic.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So rule by an elite with room for some of the mercantile class to become elite themselves and a willingness to demote the stupidest of the idiot children of the elite to Reality Television?

                “That’s quite a system you’ve got there. What do you call it?”

                “The Aristocrats!”Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Semi-permeable Elite.

                That may be what we have, but that isn’t the myth we tell ourselves at night. Volatility usually follows the breakdown of the myths we tell ourselves at night. And what do we call the volatility that breaks forth?

                The Aristocrats!Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

          I would love to see (well, maybe not, given I teach college and would have to deal with it) an experiment in Totally Random Admissions. As in, you get a scratch-off lottery ticket when you apply to a school, and if you get three Liberty Bells (or whatever, just am referencing an old Simpsons ep), you’re IN.

          Doesn’t matter if you’re smart
          Doesn’t matter if your parents are important
          Doesn’t matter if you have money
          Doesn’t matter if you’re good at sports.

          But also, allow profs to teach at an appropriate degree of rigor so that the kids who are lazy or dumb wind up flunking out.

          I wonder how that would change things.

          I will say this is making me doubt a lot of things about myself; I used to believe in a meritocracy but now I wonder if I’m just a Big Idiot who got monumentally lucky. That’s not a good feeling.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine says:

            Heh, well, you’re the one who’d have to teach them in such a system… but neither I nor Millman are suggesting totally random acceptance; there would still be some subjective adjudication that someone met the qualification bar (and ranked tiers, if implemented)… what makes it very different is that after that, then the ping-pong balls select your students – all of whom you’ve agreed are qualified.

            I’m not sure any of us can definitively say why we got in to the college(s) we did… as far as we know our applications were deemed qualified and they randomly picked every tenth one from a pile. How would we know?

            All I know is I got thick envelopes from some schools and thin envelopes from others. There was no accounting from either why the decision was what it was.Report

          • Avatar CJColucci says:

            The problem is that highly-selective colleges turn away thousands of applicants who would do at least OK once they got in. It wouldn’t surprise me if many of the students involved in this fit that description. Once they get in, they would rarely flunk out unless they were total f**k-ups.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter says:

              One of them had an SAT score of 1020 and has said online how little she cares about education.

              Presumably these kids had an unlimited budget for education for years before this point, and it’s hasn’t been enough. What we’re looking at is after they’ve already had expensive tutors and going to an expensive high school. So yes, “total f**k-ups” is the way to bet.

              That makes the most sense from a cost/benefit/risk point of view. The parent understands that the kid either gets a network and learns how to live off of it or they’re screwed.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            I’ve had to teach undergrad logic to maths students and to philosophy students. I’ve found the former to be much easier to teach than the latter. I suppose this is why philosophy hasn’t seen much progress lately: because we’re faced with some of the hardest most abstract questions and the people we are getting to solve them…sigh!Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

        It’s strange. I sort of agree with “the meritocracy isn’t meritocratic”. It tries to be. I taught at William and Mary for 6 years. I didn’t hand out a lot of F’s, it’s true, but I handed out a few. I knew a few students that failed, or dropped out, and some more who simply struggled. (Current grad rate for W&M is 90%).

        I have pretty strong confidence that the people who graduated in our major knew something, and I would stand behind that.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          Of course… I think its important to remember that Meritocracy is a very particular thing… it doesn’t simply mean selective admissions… or good teaching… or even just Education.

          So I’m sort of two minds on this… on the one hand, I don’t think we ever really had a meritocracy, but on the other I think we wanted to believe that we did. And my third mind is such that I’m not even sure that a Meritocracy is good for the soul. But I am a bit of a detail guy, and Ideas do matter, so I like to make sure that our Narratives are at least trending towards accurate.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            I’ll suggest two possible solutions, or serious changes to the education system, the first a theoretical possibility that’s staring us all in the face, and the second a tried-and-true system we’ve long used when results really matter. But this will be long.

            For the first, what about a university system that accepted everyone who applied, and eliminated travel and housing problems by having all the classes on the Internet so anyone with a connection could take classes?

            What if it made all courses available to all students, and everyone was free to learn as much as they could absorb. Suppose it makes its courses hard and thorough, but virtually free, and the university kept track of each student’s progress, accomplishments, and test results.

            What if it had levels of difficulty, so you could take the Harvard/Oxford/Cambridge version of a class or the party school version, and your detailed transcripts listed what level you’d passed?

            The students then used that list in the real world to gain employment, and they could take even more classes whenever they felt bored, continuing their education. If collecting degrees is your thing, why should someone else try to make a living from it?

            There would be no intense competition to get into a school because basically there’s only the one school, and what each student got from it was tailored to them.

            Could it be scammed? Yes, but only by producing fraudulent proof of results, and those could be easily double-checked by computer, or having a job applicant take some of the college’s online tests that they should, based on their transcript, be able to pass with ease.

            Could it be somehow abused, or cause worthless degrees to proliferate? Probably, but if worthless degrees were filled with worthless classes, and if you didn’t have to limit yourself to taking just X hours of classes before they handed you a diploma and kicked you out, every student could sail through those easy classes while snacking on a taco, and every job applicant would have those same easy classes checked off. So those classes wouldn’t point to any particular skill level, and employers would in theory look at the difficulty of what you took, not the mere fact that you managed to become a graduate.

            So if we did all this, then college wouldn’t be a place you go, it would be a process of learning that you undertake, perhaps while you are also doing other things in the real world. Sure, it sounds too much like Star Trek, and perhaps it is.

            Of course this wouldn’t work for all classes, as some require lots of hands on training and expensive facilities (nobody is going to a surgeon whose only training came from watching Youtube videos). And some students really need the brick and mortar experience or they won’t focus. But do they need a $70 million dollar student center annex? Do they need a Division I team that’s really just a minor league for the NBA or NFL?

            I should point out that this would be a very difficult shift to make because employers’ HR people, who are the ones conducting job interviews, already have a brick and mortar degree on their wall and are fully invested in maintaining the existing system because they have large sunk costs.

            What we’ve built isn’t a meritocracy, it’s a pyramid, and when you build a pyramid people devote themselves to climbing higher than other people, regardless of whether that’s a worthwhile endeavor for society.

            So this brings me to the tried-and-true results focused education system, whatever its manifest real-world flaws, as implemented by the US military.

            Every guy wants to be a SEAL in part because the SEAL school (BUDS) flunks almost everyone out, so graduating is a very selective achievement. It’s like graduating from the Harvard of kick a**. But flunking out isn’t like flunking out of the Ivy Leagues, as applicants came from the Navy and return to the Navy.

            But special forces schools are subject to some of the same things that happened to the Ivy League.

            The Green Beret school is currently in turmoil and chaos (seriously Oscar worthy movie stuff, check it out) because the Army needed a whole lot more Green Berets to fill slots, so the school stopped flunking soldiers out (instead allowing unlimited retesting, some hand holding, etc), and started allowing some under-performers to graduate.

            Complaints from the field about the quality of some of the graduates quickly followed, and along with the drop in absolute standards that affects units in the field, it also threatens the coveted beret as a future positional good for career advancement.

            What’s happened so far is the equivalent of grade inflation, where everyone who gets into school gets an A from there on out. From our current experience with university admissions, we can bet that this will create an incentive to game the admissions process, since anyone who can talk their way into Green Beret school will graduate from Green Beret school, just as almost everyone who gets admitted to the Ivy League leaves with a diploma.

            Before the grade inflation, a person who conned their way into Harvard or the Green Beret school would flunk out, and in the Army case be returned to regular army postings, because getting through the physical training or land navigation course wasn’t something you could fake, and the program was looking to weed out a whole lot of the students. The Ivy Leagues used to work like that, and when they stopped, the admissions scams probably started.

            For the Army, the options are to open a second Green Beret school so they can let more people try to get through the course (I imagine slots are limited by facilities), or just admit that our pool of recruits doesn’t have as much Green Beret material as we’d like. Warfare is like that, as as much as any nation might want to field millions of elite soldiers, they can’t because the average recruit is average. So go back to being highly selective and accept the reduced number of special forces operators.

            The academic equivalent would be a system where the kids don’t go directly to a top school, but instead go to a quite good state university for their first year, or community college, then full four-year, and from there apply to a top-tier school that only offers upper class coursework (junior and senior level). If they fail at the harder classes, the failure just returns them to their original university with no blot on their record.

            The goal is to output the maximum possible excellence from the pool of recruits, but it also makes sure all those recruits who might achieve excellence first demonstrate excellence at a lower level, or at least a high level of competence, before moving up to the big leagues. It also retains everyone in the system, shuffling them to their best level of achievement. Ivy League drop outs would no longer be college drop outs, they’d just automatically drop back a level and graduate somewhere else.

            I think the different approaches reflects that the military is a unified system, whereas each college stood alone, as its own all-encompassing world, and one often dismissive of other competing schools.

            A military service branch shuffled people where ever it needs them, within what was one organization. Colleges operated as little private militias that tried to make new transfers start over at the bottom, so it really, really mattered which private militia you signed up with, a band of drunken canon fodder or an elite strike force. So the over importance of the freshman application and the acceptance were baked in, very unlike wandering down to the local recruiting office.

            As for the issues in college athletics, aside from basketball’s one-and-dones, the real competitors are generally juniors and seniors.

            In a newly modified system where top-tier universities are primarily upper-class only schools, their athletes would be recruiting based on college athletic competitions among freshmen and sophomores, so people’s high-school records would be irrelevant.

            There wouldn’t be much reason to fake a child’s way in to a lower-tier school because those would take almost anybody anyway.

            The big remaining issue is that the top-tier schools tend to be private and very expensive, which runs counter to a purely meritocratic system. But perhaps the lower-tier schools would pay the tuition difference, getting bragging rights for how many juniors they got into Harvard, positioning themselves as also an Ivy prep school.

            A third avenue might be to figure out how to get the influence of money out of a higher education system that is obsessed with money, yet also obsessed with decrying its influence. Our student loan system made an almost infinite pot of cash available to universities, and sure enough, they found a way to claim almost all of it, making sure their profits were offset by massive capital construction costs (they’re essentially putting all that money into real estate). If their budgets weren’t so big maybe the obvious bribes would be more obvious. But the first approach, doing almost all education over the Internet, would basically defund much of our university system, so if pursued, the non-egalitarian financial issues should go away for fields that aren’t technology or resource intensive.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I liked this article from the Atlantic:

        “But rising inequality has also produced a large upper-middle class—the 9.9 percent—and it is made up of some much more ordinary characters: business executives, bankers, lawyers, physicians, dentists, and real-estate developers, more or less in that order. Nice people. People with good families, good degrees, living in good neighborhoods. People who have learned how to use all those good things as weapons in the struggle to preserve privilege.

        Now take a look at the list of defendants. It consists of business executives, bankers, one lawyer, several real-estate developers, a physician, a dentist, and, yes, the pair of desperate Hollywood stars. The entertainment angle here isn’t that a few corporate types succumbed to Hollywood values. It’s that even starlets aren’t free from the grip of the culture of meritocracy.”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          The 9.9% is upper middle class now?

          So we’ve got the .1% which is, presumably, the upper class.

          The 9.9% which is the upper middle… and everything in the bottom 90% is middle class, lower middle class, and the three tiers of the lower class?


          I need to learn to bowl.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw says:

          Cheating is pretty common in high school below the top ten percent. I can share some stories. The bigger picture I take from this is that society and the economy are less diverse than when I was in school and there were multiple paths to a middle class lifestyle for which colleges were not the gatekeepers. And for the middle-class, the stakes are higher because the cost of college and the price of student debt are much higher. They are anxious and afraid and some break easily.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            I agree but the big billion dollar questions are what can be done or can anything be done to create more paths to a middle-class lifestyle.

            As stated above, there seems to be consensus on what the problem is but the whole thing breaks down on issues of causation and solutions.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        Princeton is not in the business of winnowing… that’s why you spend the $$ to get on the conveyor belt… the meritocracy isn’t meritocratic.

        Princeton’s average SAT score is; Reading and Writing 690-790, Math 710-800

        The average high school GPA of the admitted freshman class at Princeton University was 3.87 on the 4.0 scale.

        Middle 50 percent ACT Scores: Composite Score: 32-35

        Meaning more (maybe significantly more) than 25% of their entering freshman class had a composite ACT score of 35+ (out of 36). Their top 75% in math had an SAT score of 800, their 25% had an 750.

        That is an absurd amount of winnowing on the way in, and if your real SAT is 1020 (like one of those actresses’ kids) then you’re going to be, BY FAR, the dimmest person in every class you take. Worse if that’s your SAT after having money thrown at your education then the core problem is you’re not interested in education. That 3% fail rate has your name all over it.

        Or maybe not, because I also expect that 3% fail rate is a misuse of statistics, i.e. a “lie”. I’ve seen it online and I find it very hard to believe it’s not excluding “things which aren’t their fault”. Yes, they’re black letter claiming they don’t have people transfer out of the U, but I’ve seen similarly unbelievable numbers presented at a high school level where it’s very clear they’re using non-standard definitions of categories or something.

        Looking for weasel words, one of the things which stands out if they talk about “completing their degree” (i.e. getting a bachelors) which is probably different than “getting their degree at Princeton”. So if Miss 1020 changes to a different U and gets a bachelors, as far as I can tell she’s included in those 97.8% who “graduate”. Note that 2% of their freshmen don’t make it to their Sophomore year and if that holds true for all years then that’s 8% right there.

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          I don’t see any reason the daughter with the 1020 SAT would fail out of USC. Indeed, when the scandal broke she was in the Caribbean partying networking on the personal yacht of the USC Board of Trustees chairman, Rick Caruso.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          There are some schools that are hard to stay in. As far as I can tell, UChicago and Swarthmore have reputations for academic difficulty and are hard to get into. The classic joke about Chicago is that it is where “fun comes to die.” Swarthmore’s saying is “Anywhere else it would have been an A.” Cornell is seemingly known as the easiest Ivy to get into but the hardest to stay in. This was true when I applied to college over 20 years ago, before then, and now.

          Other colleges are hard to get into but seem to be smooth sailing once you get in. This includes the really top schools like HYPS seemingly. They are loathe to admit they made a mistake and the Gentlemen’s C has been inflated to a B plus or A minus.

          HYPS, for better or for worse, are still very well regarded by many employers and the American public. They tend to provide secure spaces and access to privileges for the rest of your life. So people fight for them including the well to-do.

          I went to a hard to get into SLAC. Many of my classmates are well-to-do professionals. We did not have recruits from finance coming to court us with six-figure jobs during our senior year. Maybe this is better in the long run but making six-figures at 22 or 23 is setting someone up for life especially when bonuses are due.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If I have a superstitious bone in my body, it is the “SYNERGY!” bone. This is connected, man. All this is connected.

    It is with that in mind that I saw this list of demands from Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers.

    You could have sent your kids to Sarah Lawrence for a *LOT* cheaper than seven figures. After bribes, you’d have been in the mid-six.Report

  14. Anyone want to bet that this is just the tip of an iceberg?Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      I think not. There’s SO MUCH you can do legally with this kind of money that there should be no need for this.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      What really pisses me off about this venal and corrupt age is that we don’t have any great artists to memorialize it. Dickens carefully memorialized the Vicotorian era. The jazz age had Fitzgerald and the 1930s gave us Hemmingway amount others. Where are our hot literacy sensations to put this age in novels. The literary authors are staying away and the genre authors might be political but get bogged down by the requirements of magic and speculation.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        There are great authors “memorializing it” whether you read them or recognize them or not. For me, Wendell Berry’s Port William novels stand out as books that will be read even more in the future than they are today. To name just one.Report

  15. Avatar George Turner says:

    I wonder if their defense lawyers are going to explain to the jury that they’re just really, really, really good parents who would do absolutely anything to make sure their kids succeed in life, and that the entire admissions system has been broken for quite some time?

    If I was a juror, I would be included to feel that these parents are the only ones who got caught because they picked a fixer who was sloppy. I’d also feel that probably half the stuff on an Ivy League application is also fake, or no-show “check the box” memberships in various clubs and activities.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      Let me try out this spin, that the parents are having to game a corrupt system because all the other elites are doing it too, seeing if I can get the jurors to nod their heads.

      “It may be wrong, it is certainly unethical, but among the elites, it’s also universal. All these parents did was to try too hard to help their children. They spent a frankly ridiculous amount of money so their kids would get a good education and not fail in life, and you’ve seen their test scores, so failing was certainly a possibility. I wish I’d had parents who were that devoted to my future. Heck, perhaps then I wouldn’t be a lawyer!”

      “What about all the other parents who were just on the other side of the line, or who hired someone who was even better at scamming the system and staying off the radar, or someone who just didn’t get caught in this particular dragnet?”

      “What about the parents who just write a big fat $100 million check to the university to fund some new building as long as their kid gets in? The universities say that kind of “donation” is perfectly okay! But it’s just open bribery, an over-the-table scam, and ones that these middling actor parents don’t have the money to pull off.

      And that’s who these parents were competing against, all of them, and if the whole game is rigged, well, you have to be willing to play that game or see your children lose out to those whose parents are even richer, better connected, less ethical, and more unscrupulous.”

      What business does a court have in punishing parents for doing too much for their children? Is that the kind of America we want? These parents were just using the American higher education admissions system as it actually exists. It’s not their fault the admissions system is so corrupt, as obviously it is, and has been for quite some time.”

      “They are the real victims here, out hundreds of thousands of dollars that they shouldn’t have had to spend, on top of paying the outrageously inflated prices universities are charging for what we all know is a substandard education.”

      “They weren’t paying the coaches to lie, they were paying “admissions experts” who were paying the coaches to lie, coaches who worked for the universities, who were hired by the universities, and who were a part of the universities’ admissions system. Those officials were corrupt long before these particular parents came along, because otherwise the experts these parents hired wouldn’t have known who to pay.”

      [Otter voice]
      “So ladies and gentlemen of the jury, l’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether they broke a few rules or took a few liberties with the admissions system. They did. But you can’t hold a whole family responsible for the behavior of a few sick, perverted individuals. If you do, shouldn’t we blame the whole admissions system? And if the whole admissions system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg. Isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do what you want to us, but we won’t sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!”Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        Good luck with that speech in front of the jury. I’ll love hearing how their kids, in spite of being inferior to mine, deserve to do better.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Only about half the jury went to college, and not all are parents, and I only need a couple of them to deadlock it or get them to convict only one some of the lesser charges.Report

  16. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    The real victim here is Lori Laughlin, who paid $500,000 and now faces federal prison for her efforts to get her daughter, who is on record that she doesn’t intend to go to class much and “doesn’t care about school at all”, into USC.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

      I know I’m supposed to be forgiving and all, but I hope the Hallmark channels dump every single one of the movies she was in from their rotation. I briefly considered last night cancelling the part of my cable package that included them but then I’d also lose TCM if I did that.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci says:

        I’ve often thought that Hallmark ought to swap out the female leads in its various mystery series. Would anyone notice if Lori Loughlin replaced Allison Sweeney, who replaced Holly Robinson Peete (well, they might notice that), who replaced Constance Cameron Bure? Hell, I’d make it an annual thing.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

          Honestly, if they just went to 24/7 re-runs of the whole “Murder, She Wrote” run (so far I have not heard anything “bad” about Angela Lansbury*) I would be happy.

          (*And if there is something, for the love of God, don’t tell me. Please.)Report

          • Avatar CJColucci says:

            Although Murder She Wrote (to which my wife is addicted) is part of the Hallmark rotation, it is re-runs of what had once been a major network show. I was thinking about the Hallmark shows, all of which feature perky, civilian women in nice small or medium-sized towns, attractive enough to be plausible love interests but not hot enough to be distractingly sexy, who manage to be murder magnets. I’m convinced that you could swap the lead actresses among the shows without people noticing the change.
            Incidentally, one of these days I’m going to pitch a show titled Murder Magnet. I know a few civilians who have been involved in a homicide as witnesses or relatives of victims. It’s very stressful. It even gets to cops. So why not a show where some baker/librarian/garage sale maven ends up entangled in multiple homicides and has PTSD and therapy as a result?Report

    • Avatar atomickristin says:

      There’s a modern tragedy in the Lori Loughlin story because she and her husband simply wanted their daughters (who were already independently successful in a very modern way on IG and Youtube and would likely have been fine without college) to have the college experience because they hadn’t.

      I can certainly relate to wanting your kids to have something you didn’t. It’s hard to let that go even when the kids themselves don’t want the thing you want them to have. It’s hard to let that go even when their thing is a success.
      nd as a daughter I can relate to parents wanting accomplishments to reflect well upon them, with not a care for my desires or well being.

      That does not at all seem to be the case with Lori Loughlin, who really appears to just want her daughters to go to college when she wasn’t able to. Gives me the sads for everyone involved.

      It’s just ironic that she couldn’t step back to see that her kids were already well on their way to success, that her personal success had basically already purchased that for them, and that she was (possibly) taking the opportunity of another kid for whom college was their best path to success.

      Or maybe she just took the spot of another rich a-hole who already had every privilege.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        If you can graduate from college, you can get into a college. Most colleges in the US do not have competitive admissions. She wanted to get her kids into a better college than they were academically qualified for, not just to get into college.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw says:

        I guess the problem with Loughlin’s situation is at least one of her daughters appears complicit in the crime, in that apparently a daughter asked for help in filling out the applications appropriately and was instructed on holding herself out as a walk-on athlete. I don’t know if this is 100% clear, but I think its one thing for a parent to orchestrate things behind the scenes, and worse if the parent is teaching the child how to lie and steal to get whatever you want.Report

  17. Avatar bookdragon says:

    My mom worked at a sub-Ivy that got a lot of rich kids whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t bribe their into to real Ivies. I admit it turned me on the whole idea of elite colleges, particularly for undergrad. Okay, if your child’s ambition in med school or law or finance, I understand pushing to get into Harvard or Yale. Otherwise it feels less like providing the best path for the kid than providing bragging rights for the parents.

    Parents looking for the best path to success would do the research to look for the schools that rate high for their kid’s area of interest so they’ll get a good education in it and connections with people *actually known in that field*. Bonus points for an Honors program that lets undergrads work on research with those profs and get their names on publications and the opportunity to present the work at conferences.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      I’m guessing that for some of the actors that got wrapped up in this, the colleges like USC are the elite schools for making connections in the industry that will lead to top roles. Their own agents or their circle of friends probably have a pretty good breakdown of current working actors by university.

      Rob Lowe wrote a book about himself that starts out with an almost ridiculous number of kids at his Hollywood high school who became successful actors, including the Sheen family, Lavar Burton, and so many others. But getting into the right high school is playing the real estate game, and I’ll bet lots of these same parents had already done exactly that. Gaming the college system is just the next logical step.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the top schools in the California system have an overabundance of objectively under-qualified acting, film, and theater majors who are the children of prominent actors. For so many well-known stars to get swept up in a bust of what seems to be one rogue operator implies that many of their social network knew what to pull.

      So I don’t know if the accused will even base any real repercussions within the industry because the attitude from the top might be “Poor dear, you got caught. I’m glad I didn’t!”Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        Sadly, you are probably right, esp wrt to the actors.

        Though I half-way expect more of a Simpsons’ Nelson type “Ha Ha” from the top in response to anyone who was clumsy and got caught.Report

    • Avatar CJColucci says:

      I’d quibble with one point. If you’re aiming for the type of career that requires graduate or professional education, like law, medicine, or science, the admissions departments of the schools are quite familiar with the high-quality “sub-Ivies,” so getting into the primo undergraduate school is not as important as people think. If you’re going into a “connections” field with few objective standards of quality — say, becoming a political pundit — then going to the elitest of the elite undergraduate schools is a bigger deal.Report

  18. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    Reading more about it, especially in the higher-ed press (Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Ed) today, I’m almost more angry about the fact that these people apparently got away for a while with a scam that was Scooby-Doo-villain-level stupid (“I’m gonna photoshop a picture of your kid so it looks like he’s friends with this training-camp guy”) than I am about the scandal itself.

    We’re now in the timeline where Pinky and the Brain would succeed at world domination, that’s how stupid this timeline is.Report

  19. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’ve seen a number of arguments about the whole “why is *THIS* wrong but buying a building for Harvard to make sure your kid gets in is seen as 100% legitimate?” issue.

    Talking to Fish last night, he said that he saw the question framed as “what’s the legal vs. moral distinction being made here?” and all of the arguments being given as to why *THIS* is okay but *THAT* isn’t okay were legal distinctions rather than moral distinctions.

    Because I think that that is an interesting question in and of itself, I will make a distinction between the two.

    It has to do with the whole issue of absolute goods vs. positional goods.

    Positionally, there are only X slots at these schools. If you horn into the line, you necessarily bump the most minimally acceptable student out. So if you get in because you play cello, chaired the multilingual cooking club, own a charity that helps orphans in shithole countries, and got a 35 on your ACT (like, without cheating to get it), no one really seems to mind. The meritocracy works.

    If, however, you get in because your grandfather bought a building at the college, “The Trust Fund Building For The Pursuit Of Excellence!” say, and you bumped out the most minimally acceptable student, there is a level at which that seems vaguely unfair.

    That said, the building is an absolute good for the college. Diversity and inclusion workshops will be held there, administrators will sit there and surf the web, some professors might have offices in the building… hell, maybe some students will go in there to ask for directions as to where the cafeteria is.

    It’s something that raises the positional value of the college and raising the positional value of the college raises the positional value of every student who graduates from the college (and maybe even for some of those who drop out as sophomores).

    There’s even a weird possibility that actual stuff happens in the building that might not have happened without it. Smaller class sizes that allow students to learn more than they would have otherwise. Research that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Papers written that wouldn’t have been written otherwise. Books read that wouldn’t have been otherwise. THESE ARE ALL GOOD THINGS! With actual value and everything!

    Compare to the gaming of the system that was done here: all that was done was someone was made to look like the nerd in the first example when, really, all they are are beautiful children of beautiful celebrities. Bumping the most minimally acceptable student out in order to get someone like that in is wrong. That most minimally acceptable student busted their ass to get into the school and did work and played dumb instruments and did the extracurriculars and did the volunteer work and, yes, even did their homework and studied occasionally.

    And that is the sort of person who would actively benefit from going to a good school and taking the classes. That is the sort of person who is made absolutely better by a good education and, by extension, makes the world better.

    Horning out that student for a building is a trade-off. (That student will probably be able to go to Dartmouth and be in the middle of the pack.) Horning out that student for a student that cheated?

    That’s a moral difference. Not just a legal one.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      I’m not so sure. Would you rather have yet another marble building on an already wildly overbuilt campus, or would you rather have classes filled with hot partying babes who aren’t all that bright but whose parents are famous actors?

      I’m going with the latter. They make the college experience worth it, and make the college worth attending.

      Part of what makes college a positional good is the networks the children will form, and celebrity and inherited celebrity are highly valued. Newspapers weren’t running pictures of random buildings at Harvard, but they were running photos of Natalie Portman studying on the green, and Natalie Portman doing this and doing that. The same held true for Brooke Shields (who went to Princeton) and holds for Emma Watson. “Where is Emma Watson going to school?” probably figured into more kids college preferences than most other factors. And her school, Brown University, definitely got some PR out of it.

      E!online article on Emma graduating from Brown University. See the star in her cap and gown!

      The trouble is, none of our universities are honest enough to just admit that they should bend over to admit rich and famous people’s kids, or especially rich and famous kids. The system has to pretend to be purely academic so the institutions can retain their dignity, even when half the freshmen are taking remedial algebra and majoring in dance studies.

      “I got a BA from Brown in 2014” is what you say interviewing for your first job. The HR staffer’s response is “You went to school with Emma Watson? OMG!” That’s definitely worth something.

      I think the moral conundrum is that we’re not supposed to rank children or give people unfair advantages, but this is all about ranking children and giving them unfair advantages. The only question is what lies we tell ourselves as we go about doing this awful thing.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The examples you give are of famous people who actually accomplished stuff… and who, by showing up, are the equivalent of a very small, temporary, building on campus (that is later replace by a brass plaque that reads “So-and-so went to school here and threw up in the bushes 10 feet to your left”). Getting PR out of it is a positional good that, yes, benefits everybody who went to Brown. (Even if, as you point out, only for that first job.)

        this is all about ranking children and giving them unfair advantages

        Sure. But there is a difference between giving unfair advantages to people who provide a mutual unfair advantage back and people who provide no mutual unfair advantage trying to wrestle an unfair advantage from the system and doing so in a way that is not only immoral but illegal.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        From the colonial period until the mid-20th century, our elite universities made little pretense of being anything but elaborate finishing schools for the wealthy and a few scholarship kids. This is because the founders of our elite universities based their idea on what a university should be like from Oxbridge, which were elite finishing schools by the 17th century. Everything else is path dependence.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      Does earning a reputation for being a university that accepts any dimwitted child who is heir to a fortune “raise the positional value of every student who graduates”?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Depends. Did you get a building that can hold diversity and inclusion conferences? A building that can handle students doing a sit-in where they call for more Native American Law Professors? A building that you can show fortune holders and say “your biggest competitor gave us this building and, right now, his grandson is VP of marketing for his middlest subsidiary”?

        I mean, seriously. Look at Harvard. How’s its reputation doing? Look at Yale. Look at Princeton. Look at Stamford.

        What the hell.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well, Alan Derschowitz was wildly alarmed about all this, calling it the biggest scandal ever to hit America’s colleges and universities. He was horrified that there was a system for cheating on the SAT and ACTs. People at elite universities were part of the scam.

        To him, it meant that the public might question the whole academic pyramid and the value of Ivy League schools. What was thought to be a meritocracy is not, and he is worried that there could be an upheaval. He was glad Harvard, from which he graduated, wasn’t directly part of this particular case, but Yale was, and he got his law degree from Yale. Anger, horror, and worry seemed to be his primary emotions.

        What’s probably driving his worry is that his own status and reputation, and that of his elite peers, that could be fatally damaged by this. A Harvard degree is worth a whole lot of money starting out, and over a lifetime it’s worth a fortune, often along with a whole lot of power and influence in government – unless one day when it’s not. Maybe it really isn’t worth that much more than a degree from the University of Iowa.

        Five of our Supreme Court justices went to Harvard, and three to Yale. But if those are still just country clubs, but now dishonest ones where far too many graduates just scammed their way in, shouldn’t their hold on positions of power be broken up?

        However he did point out that the current scandal is probably a side-effect of the grade inflation that enveloped the Ivy Leagues decades earlier, long after he got his degrees. Prior to that there wouldn’t have been any point in scamming a child’s way into Harvard because the child would flunk out. I partially understood that as “So even if we question these more recent graduates’ degrees, don’t question mine!”

        But then there’s the deeper questions about how we have an academic bubble, with too many overbuilt, overpriced universities, students drowning in debt for degrees of dubious value, and employment system that’s using degrees as a substitute for IQ tests, and whether lots of brick and mortar educational institutions even makes sense when we have the Internet.

        As an aside, the other day Trump said that he might require universities to have a financial stake in the student loan system, as a way to discourage kids from going deep into debt in a major that is unlikely to see them pay off that debt. Basically, the lenders could bill the school for part of the default. And he’s not alone in his thinking. The idea was originally floated by some prominent Democrats. I think Warren might’ve been one of them.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          If we can establish that the benefits provided by the 1% of the 1% are bullshit, wouldn’t that be a good thing?Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Depends. For some of them it doesn’t matter. If you already have a “name”, if you’re already “rich”, then you don’t care and a different set of networks will appear around you.

            For your people trying to become that, it matters a whole heck of a lot. Chelsea Clinton already has access to her parents’ networks, she can live off of them. However when she went to school she was carrying that network around and other people had the opportunity to link to her.

            The real question you’re inching towards is “does society as a whole benefit from having these networks exist”?

            I suspect the answer is “yes”, that there are things/ideas/products which just don’t happen unless networked people are talking to other networked people. Ergo why Silicon Valley is so hard to recreate. For all of the squeaking about how unfair it is that some people have access to these networks and I do not, the odds of me being a famous actor or politician was already zero.

            I also think that if we dismantle college as a network builder then we’re just going to see something else instantly replace it. Humans both need and create these things. Facebook may open a dozen “private famous actors” groups where you need to know someone in order to join.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Pretty much. My theory here is that universities allocate a certain number of spots for fundraising purposes, where they will allow students who aren’t too far short of the bar to get in, in exchange for donations from their parents. It’s not ideal, but it brings in money that they can use to subsidize scholarships for students from lower- and middle-class families. Or research, or whatever.

      This is something they explicitly budget for. If they admit too many sub-par applicants, they dilute their brand. So if people go around the official channels and bribe individual university employees, or pay people to help them cheat on tests, not only does this mess up the university’s admissions slot budgeting, but also the university doesn’t any money out of it.

      Basically, this is wrong for the same reason it’s wrong to pay a store clerk $200 to look the other way while you walk out the door with $500 worth of merchandise.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Based on what we know from this scandal, these students fell quite a bit bellow the bar to get in on their own merits and many of the university officials pocketed this money for their own personal use rather than using it for university purposes.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      And we had a *REAL TIME* example of this!

      Dr. Dre posted to Instagram (in a post since deleted) that his daughter “got accepted to USC all her own. No jail time!!!” (you can see a screenshot of the post here).

      Well, of course, it comes out that Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre donated 70 million dollars to USC to create a music program and build a building to house said program.

      So Dre deleted the post.

      (There were a *LOT* of people who posted stuff to him to the effect of “she got in the old-fashioned way, did she?” and so on and so forth. My take, however, was that we can see the difference RIGHT THERE. My take was something like “She got in? Goddamn right she did! Good for her! Good for them!” rather than “she obviously didn’t deserve to get in”. This uncannily illustrates the exact difference between the two examples and we don’t have to compare hypotheticals at all. We can come out and ask “Was what Felicity Huffman did morally different than what Dre did?” My answer is “Jeez! Of course it is!” But I would. )Report

  20. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’ll tell this story again:

    I have friends in management (until recently, I would have said that I know three people without degrees) at a small manufacturing company who tell me that they would hire a person with a year or two of experience as assistant manager of a Domino’s, Pizza Hut, or McDonald’s before they would hire a person with a bachelor’s degree in “Business” (let alone (whatever) Studies).

    They say this because, and I’ll try to recreate the rant for you:

    “I know that the guy who worked as an assistant manager at Pizza Hut had to deal with all three delivery drivers calling in sick on a Friday night because there was a party, I know that the guy who worked as an assistant manager at Domino’s had to deal with screaming customers at the same time as stoned line cooks at the same time as the phone ringing, I know that the guy who worked as an assistant manager at McDonald’s knows how to tell time, how to count, how to shower, and how to deal with both people who tell him what to do and people that he has to order around. The guy with a degree? I don’t know anything about him except that he can probably outdrink me.”


    I look at the price of college. I think about this rant my buddy gave. I look at the admittance scandals.

    Something’s gotta give.Report

    • Avatar Jesse says:

      That system works great if you’re a small manufacturing company and the boss determines who hires each person and frankly, it’s not a big deal because it’s a small manufacturing company.

      OTOH, if you’re even a mid-sized corporation, people tend to Notice that Some People are able to get well paying jobs even when they have no qualifications while Other People still don’t get the well paying jobs when they have all the qualifications.

      It’s sort of like how Silicon Valley pushes itself as some secret true meritocracy, when in reality, when you look into things, it’s mostly White and Asian dudes from a few different colleges hiring all their buddies who then hire all their buddies and what a coinkydink, now the “company culture” means that people who aren’t mid-20’s to early 30’s White or Asian dudes from certain colleges “don’t have the right fit.”Report

  21. Avatar Jaybird says:

    We’ve got an answer to the big question: “What was the first domino?”

    It was a Yale Dad caught in a securities fraud case.Report

  22. Avatar Jaybird says:

    TMZ is reporting that Lori Loughlin’s daughters won’t be returning to college.

    (Like, because they fear bullying. Not because the college expelled them or anything.)Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Loughlin’s daughter was the one who only learned about the scandal *after* de-boating from a USC Board of Regents yacht, correct? I’m waiting for the “Yacht Scandal”. Can’t be far behind.Report

  23. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Naturally, everybody’s solution to this problem matches their ideological priors. The technocratic crowd is calling for making universities nerdier and arguing that only academics and standardized test scores should count. The dividing line is on whether you believe some sort of affirmative action should exist. Caplan is arguing for taking government money out of higher education because most people don’t need what we teach them in schools. How is making access to elite gate-keeping universities harder for nearly everybody going to solve this problem, I don’t know. Elite employers can still require the degree from elite universities.Report

  24. Avatar George Turner says:

    There’s a great story in the Atlantic about the scandal.

    I found this paragraph particularly galling.

    The second flaw in the system was an important change to the way untimed testing is reported to the colleges. When I began the job, the SAT and the ACT offered untimed testing to students with learning disabilities, provided that they had been diagnosed by a professional. However, an asterisk appeared next to untimed scores, alerting the college that the student had taken the test without a time limit. But during my time at the school, this asterisk was found to violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the testing companies dropped it. Suddenly it was possible for everyone with enough money to get a diagnosis that would grant their kid two full days—instead of four hours—to take the SAT, and the colleges would never know. Today, according to Slate, “in places like Greenwich, Conn., and certain zip codes of New York City and Los Angeles, the percentage of untimed test-taking is said to be close to 50 percent.” Taking a test under normal time limits in one of these neighborhoods is a sucker’s game—you’ve voluntarily handicapped yourself.

    That is a bubble of elites who’ve built a corrupt parallel college admissions system where their SAT’s and ACT’s are not comparable to everyone else.Report