College Admissions: US scandal 2019, affordability, rights, socio-economics, crime, common sense

Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
edited March 16 in Purgatory
A huge scandal about a US college admissions scam came out this past week (CNN). There's lots of coverage, but ISTM that article is a pretty good summary.

Allegedly, a lot of very wealthy folks, some from Hollywood, paid big bucks to get their kids into college--not just the polite bribe of making a huge donation to the school in exchange for admission; not just having someone else take the kids' entrance exams; but even falsely portraying the kids as athletes, and creating pics showing their heads pasted on pics of actual athletes. Etc.

I haven't dug into this. I know college can be really important for career prospects, networking, personal growth, and as a rite of passage--oh, and for learning ;) . From some of the coverage, it seems that some of the kids weren't remotely interested in college. Someone was reported as saying they wanted their kid "to have the college experience". If the kid truly doesn't want to be there, is totally disinclined to do the coursework, and maybe simply doesn't have academic skills, interests, or talent, the kid will probably be really miserable at college, and will probably do very badly.

I could see taking extraordinary, even illegal risks if a kid has the desire/need for college, but can't afford it, and/or was stuck at substandard schools, etc. But why go through all that if the kid's not interested? Why risk prison? Why teach your kid, by example, that "by any means necessary" is ok? Why risk *your kid's* future by getting them into the midst of that mess?

ISTM, it would make much more sense to find out what the kid really wants. If that's college, then spend money on test prep tutoring instead of bribes. If they're not at all sure, community college plus a job might be a good step. Or travel. Or volunteering. Or starting a small business. Etc.

But, now, careers are wrecked, parents may well be going to prison, kids may be in trouble, etc.

Does it make sense to anyone?

I'm thinking of this thread as a place to discuss this current scandal, but maybe also whether college, uni, voc-tech is always necessary (even a good idea*) for everyone. And whether it must take place right after high school. And whether time off in between is better for some people.

What about the deserving, interested, talented kids who didn't get a chance at college because places were taken by scams and bribes?

Why is college so very expensive, anyway? If a kid gets loans, why do they take so long to pay off? And why can't everyone who really *wants* college, but can't afford it, get financial aid? Etc., etc.

What the heck is going on? And can the whole thing be improved?



*Anyone remember Caroline Byrd's book "The Case Against College"?

Comments

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Of all the industrial countries only the US charges tuition at public colleges. Which invites courruption. Several young adults are now suing colleges
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    AIUI, the corruption is hardly limited to public colleges.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    AIUI the current case focuses on private universities.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    edited March 16
    I think UCLA was *one* of the schools.

    ETA: Public university.
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    UCLA is indeed one of the schools involved.

    The systems around college admittance aren't at all equitable or fair. These folks went even further and broke the law, but the real scandal is that admittance into elite schools isn't merit-based in the first place.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I stand corrected.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    edited March 16
    According to "8 colleges were named in the massive college-admissions scandal. Here's how they're responding." (This Is Insider (evidently related to Business Insider)):
    Universities named in court documents include Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin, Yale University, Wake Forest University, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

    Georgetown, Stanford, and Yale are private. Not sure about Wake Forest.

    ETA: I only count 7 there, not 8. Is this a bad math day for me, or was one left out?
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Here is a quote from this site.
    Laughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli, a YouTube celebrity whose parents allegedly bribed her way into USC, confessed on social media, “I don’t know how much school I’m going to attend. But I’m going to go in and talk to my deans and everyone and hope that I can try to balance it all. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying. I don’t really care about school.”

    Having gained access to an excellent education, she had no intention of taking advantage of it
  • Playing field is tilted in favor of the rich.

    In other news, sky is blue and bears still poop in the woods.

    AFF
  • Golden Key wrote: »
    According to "8 colleges were named in the massive college-admissions scandal. Here's how they're responding." (This Is Insider (evidently related to Business Insider)):
    Universities named in court documents include Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin, Yale University, Wake Forest University, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

    Georgetown, Stanford, and Yale are private. Not sure about Wake Forest.

    ETA: I only count 7 there, not 8. Is this a bad math day for me, or was one left out?

    Yes Wake is private.

    Wake Forest Baptist University.

    I am so embarrassed.

    AFF

  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    I confess to some bewilderment over this. I cannot for the life of me grasp the thought process, if any, of these parents. The point of getting into an elite, well-respected (well, maybe now it's formerly elite and once well-respected) college is surely not simply admittance. What ultimately counts is coming out the other end of this process with a smattering of education and an actual degree from the formerly elite, once well-respected institution. Getting in only matters if, some 4-5 years, the kid actually graduates. I mean, do we now expect to be impressed when one of the items on a kid's resume reads, "Flunked out of Princeton in 2020?"

    What were these parents imagining would happen between admittance and some future diploma? Were they planning to purchase passing grades from the freshman comp teacher, the Bio 101 instructor, the professor of Intro to Sociology?

    I've been teaching freshman comp (among other courses) for nearly 30 years. Under US law, I am not allowed to talk with a student's parents (even when they're paying the bills/bribes) unless I have the student's written permission to do so. While no parent has ever offered me money to pass an undeserving student, a few have attempted to bully or intimidate me into doing so. I refer these folks to my department head, and they (I've had two) have always backed me up.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    ISTM that this sort of corruption is so upsetting because it is only mildly distinct from our own values. The majority of parents that I know have very little interest in the actual learning that their child may be subjected to AFAICT. They are extremely interested in the cachet of the institution and want the finest credential their money can buy, but the vast majority of adults of my acquaintance are not paragons of intellectual curiosity. We react in vociferous dismay at the unfathomable duplicity of the scammers out of a need for protective coloration more than anything else. The opinions expressed do not reflect the views of my alma mater, YMMV, etc.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    edited March 17
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Of all the industrial countries only the US charges tuition at public colleges. Which invites courruption. Several young adults are now suing colleges
    University tuition is certainly not free in public universities or colleges here in New Zealand, nor in Australia [though it's a hell of a lot less than in the US].

    Though the government in NZ now pays for a student's first year of study at a tertiary institution or for industry training, which I think is a good thing.
    Playing field is tilted in favor of the rich.

    In other news, sky is blue and bears still poop in the woods.
    I must say this was my reaction. I was surprised actors were involved, but my first thought went to "rich privilege".

    Ohher: that was my second thought. I guess they thought they'd play it by ear? Hope for the best?
    Ohher wrote: »
    While no parent has ever offered me money to pass an undeserving student, a few have attempted to bully or intimidate me into doing so. I refer these folks to my department head, and they (I've had two) have always backed me up.
    That bullying/intimidation is terrible.

    Looks like you've got great support: I know of several instances back in Australia where academics were forced to pass people by those above them^, against their better judgement. They didn't stay in that department long.

    ^generally to keep the money rolling in, rather than bullying
  • Anglican BratAnglican Brat Shipmate
    edited March 17
    University tuition is not free in Canada either. Although, the tuition for public universities is much lower than American universities.

    Canada doesn't really have anywhere comparable to an Ivy League university, as much as some at UofT and McGill might pretend that they are the Harvard and Yale of Canada, they are not.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    I am starting to wonder whether integrity in the USA is in a period of decline. The endorsement of Trump as a Presidential candidate is obviously very strong evidence in favor of my assertion. That the Dems allowed that Senator from NJ to stand again instead of forcing him to sit as an independent is further evidence. This particular example showing the scale and scope of corruption among some parents and employees of the educational institutions involved demonstrates that it is not limited to politics.

    I'd like to see people other than those two actors who I hadn't heard of before exposed on the television. As I understand it the list includes wealthy individuals across a wide range of industries and callings, including people who if they committed a similar crime in Australia would lose their license to practice law and who (I think) would have to surrender any partnership they had with other lawyers in lucrative international law firms. I believe that happens in New York, as Cohen has been struck off. Surely it happens in the other 50 jurisdictions as well.

    Please note that I am raising this for discussion. This is what it is beginning to look like from where I sit and applying my values. I will be very pleased to be wrong.
  • How possible would a scheme like this be in other countries? Would it be likely that you could bribe the proctors of a standardized test? Could you easily impersonate a student taking the test so you can take the test for them? Can you pay a psychiatrist to diagnose your child with a learning disability that allows them to have extra time on a standardized test?

    Is there any other country where the most important standardized tests universities, including public universities, look at (SAT, ACT, AP, etc.) are not made by any national, state, or local board of education/education ministry but by private non-profits (The College Board, ACT, Inc., etc.) with no mandate from the government? Where these standardized tests are not linked to the curriculum students' study in school, but rather to what the non-profit thinks are the verbal and math skills needed to succeed at university (there is no national curriculum, by the way, and what students are taught varies widely across states and even across school districts within a state)? (Granted, many universities are starting to not require the SAT or ACT, but students feel pressured to take them anyway).

    Do universities in other countries care about anything other than standardized test scores and school grades/marks? Do any universities conduct interviews or take into account factors like the student's background (family income, whether the student is the first in the family to go to university, if the student comes from a part of the country that the university has few students from, what hardship the student has had to overcome, the student's race, ethnicity, etc.) in making admissions decisions?

    Does being the child of an alumnus/alumna of a university help in admissions in other countries? Would it help if a student's parents made a very large donation to the university?

    Is there any other country where a student's athletic and artistic talents matter for admission to a university to study an academic subject that has nothing to do with sports or the performing or visual arts? What about a student's leadership in high school clubs, community service, accomplishments in the Scouts or other such group, jobs, internships, taking university courses during the summer or even during the school year, scholarly and/or scientific research done outside class, etc.? Do students obsess about doing many of the activities I have listed, even if they are not particularly interested, in order to appear "well rounded" or to "stand out" from the crowd of applicants?

    Do students have to write an admissions essay as part of their college application? (In the US, this essay is usually autobiographical and talks about a significant event in a student's life, although some essay prompts students are given are more creative than this. The essay usually has little to do with a student's academic work and in my opinion is an exercise in self-promotion (while trying not to sound that one is promoting oneself) that I think is one of the worst parts of US culture. Although college admissions officers say they can smell if an essay has been polished or even written in its entirety by one of the many coaches that help students prepare for college, most wealthy students have some tutor or coach at least edit their essay.)

    I have tutored kids (not very wealthy ones) for the SAT and helped edit their college essays, by the way, and I find the whole university admissions process in this country farcical and infuriating.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited March 17
    Cheating is universal, and bribery happens. As a childless adult, I can't remember the details of our system, but as much as they try, I don't think we have prestigious institutions like Yale, Harvard or Oxford. Some Uni's have better reputations than others, but a University of Melbourne degree isn't much different from Monash Uni, for example. Its rare for people who are not country people to move city to go to Uni. Everybody from my generation who did law went to Melbourne or Monash, or if they really wanted to do law but didn't have the marks they went to Tassie University in Hobart, the poor bastards. We did look down on them, although I don't anymore because my wife went there. They also had a great politics professor called Mr. Richard Head. :wink:

    So no, this particular scandal would not happen here. What does happen here from time to time is people contracting with Unis paying kickbacks to administrators, including David Dench, a famous North Melbourne footballer from the 1980's. There was also a bloke in the Education Department who went down for fiddling school repairs to his benefit.

    There might be scope for this sort of corruption around admissions for International Students. I'm not sure to what extent those students must meet educational criteria.

    I would be gobsmacked if a university waived academic standards for people who were good at sport. We don't glorify sport at university one little bit.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    I just heard a bit ago about the fake learning disability angle. **That**, I find gob-smacking. I heard a young woman on the radio today who has learning disabilities, and is none too pleased about people faking. She already has a hard time with ignorant people not believing her, not believing in "brain disabilities" at all.

    a) How could parents do such stupid things? Especially when they have the resources to get other sorts of opportunities for their own kids?

    b) If their kids have had a very hard time with school, and really do need extra time to take tests, maybe the kids really do have undiagnosed learning disabilities? Maybe they should get tested for them, and helped if they do have them, rather than the parents pulling all this crap?

    Gaaaaa! (:mad:)
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    I am starting to wonder whether integrity in the USA is in a period of decline.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
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    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    [GASP]
    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

    You have, I know from reading other threads, been following US politics and the, um, activities of the current occupant of the White House plus the antics of various of his followers, who do number in the thousands. I assume you raise the question above in some acutely dry Antipodean form of ironic wit.

    But however you meant it, I admit it makes me want to cry.

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I think this puts it in perspective (as only The Onion can)
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    Yes, re Onion article. The real girl reportedly was on the yacht of a school trustee when all this broke. Dunno if that's a common thing for people of her status at college.
  • It's been happening in the UK for years. Nothing new to see I'm afraid
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Of all the industrial countries only the US charges tuition at public colleges ...
    Not so - Tony Blair introduced tuition fees in the UK's (publicly-funded) universities in 1997.
  • Those with the fake "learning disability" route were doing is so the child would be alone in the room with the a single proctor and not just for the extended time; the second part was changing the location where the child would take the test to one of two places where the business had bribed the administrator. The bribed administrator would allow a third party as a proctor who would tell the student the correct answers or would replace the test results with a corrected version (apparently the children did not always know their parents were arranging for a cheat).

    One can read the indictment at https://www.justice.gov/file/1142881/download
    and an affidavit https://www.justice.gov/file/1142876/download

    This is big local news where I am since many of the parents are local as well as one of the universities.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Even beyond the cheating on tests, there's the use of such tests in the first place. I've known since I was 15 that these standardized tests are nonsense. While I don't consider myself especially stupid, neither am I extraordinarily clever. Yet when I took the PSATs back in high school, my near-perfect scores -- especially on the math portion -- set my school's teachers and guidance counselors abuzz. Suddenly I -- who nearly failed 2nd-year math and never took any math beyond Algebra 2 -- was a mathematical genius. I was placed in courses I had no background for (and promptly flunked). A repeat performance on the "real" SATs a year later confirmed for everyone (except me) that I was still a math genius but simply not working to my potential.

    Here's what was really going on: I was extremely lucky in my guess-work. I looked at so many problems full of so many terms and symbols I hadn't the least clue about, I simply went through the test eliminating the one answer for each problem that couldn't possibly be right (out of 5 possibilities, there's nearly always one nonsensical response), leaving me with a 1-in-4 chance of guessing right, and I hit a lucky streak.

    If they're going to use these dratted tests, at LEAST make the candidates actually DO the math and SHOW their work. These multiple-guess tests are a complete waste of time and money -- and apparently also easy to cheat on.

  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    Net Spinster--

    Good freaking grief re proctors.
  • I'm not aware of this happening in the UK yet, but it will, and it will do so with the support of the university administrations. They and their host cities have bet their farms on ever increasing admission numbers, come what may, and minor issues like integrity will not, and already are not from what I hear from my academic contacts, to get in the way.
  • Net SpinsterNet Spinster Shipmate
    Golden Key wrote: »
    Net Spinster--

    Good freaking grief re proctors.

    Yup, Stanford is doing an internal investigation since what has come out is only what the Fed think they can get convictions for. https://news.stanford.edu/2019/03/14/admission-case-info/
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    I am starting to wonder whether integrity in the USA is in a period of decline.

    "Decline" implies some past golden age of fairness and merit-based college admissions. Does anyone truly believe that George W. Bush gained admission to Yale in 1964 because of his towering intellect? Note that this was only two years after it took the intervention of 500 U.S. Marshalls for James Meredith to enroll at the University of Mississippi. What state of integrity is the U.S. higher education system declining from?
  • Ohher wrote: »
    Getting in only matters if, some 4-5 years, the kid actually graduates. I mean, do we now expect to be impressed when one of the items on a kid's resume reads, "Flunked out of Princeton in 2020?"

    Oh, they'll graduate, if it's something they want to do - assuming they don't just want to party for a few years en route to a career as a "celebrity" or something. It's not hard for someone wealthy to manage a pass.

    I'm still bemused at the spectacle of alleged institutions of higher learning recruiting idiots for their sports teams, but that's hardly new either.
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