Universities are providing preferences to some students who don't have rich parents
The celebrity college-admissions cheating scandal has two clear takeaways: an elite college degree has taken on wildly inflated importance in American society, and the sports-industrial complex enjoys wildly inflated power within universities. Thirty-three moguls and TV stars allegedly paid admissions fixer William Singer a total of $25 million from 2011 to 2018 to doctor their children’s high school resumes—sending students to private SAT and ACT testing sites through false disability claims, for example, where bought-off proctors would raise the students’ scores. Singer forged athletic records, complete with altered photos showing the student playing sports in which he or she had little experience or competence. Corrupt sports directors would then recommend the student for admission, all the while knowing that they had no intention of playing on the school’s team.By limiting enrollment and providing a subset for underachieving minorities colleges and universities are already gaming the admissions process before some were caught taking bribes for admissions. They are also providing more indoctrination than educations. When a significant number of recent colleges graduates say they would prefer the failed ideology of socialism you have to know they have been poorly taught or indoctrinated. No person who knows the facts about the massive failures of socialism would ever embrace it. It is a failed economic model with a history of mass deaths in countries around the world.
None of this could have happened if higher education had not itself become a corrupt institution, featuring low classroom demands, no core knowledge acquisition, low grading standards, fashionable (but society-destroying) left-wing activism, luxury-hotel amenities, endless partying, and huge expense. Students often learn virtually nothing during their college years, as University of California, Irvine, education school dean Richard Arum writes in Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. They may even lose that pittance of knowledge with which they entered college. Seniors at Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Berkeley scored lower in an undemanding test of American history than they did as freshmen, according to a 2007 study commissioned by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. College is only desultorily about knowledge acquisition, at least outside of the STEM fields (and even those fields are under assault from identity politics).
Teen Instagram star and product-placement phenom Olivia Jade Giannulli, the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Massimo Giannulli, and apparently an unwitting recipient of Singer’s services, spoke for millions of college freshmen when she admitted on a YouTube video last August: “I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.” Giannulli was funneled into the University of Southern California via her mother’s $500,000 purchase of fake records and a photo-shopped image portraying her as a promising addition to the USC rowing team. She was looking forward to the campus parties and football games, she told her 2 million YouTube followers—at least to the extent that such extracurricular activities didn’t interfere with her lucrative product-promotion business.
So what is college about? Primarily, it is about accrediting its graduates and signaling—as Bryan Caplan argues in The Case against Education—their value to future employers as responsible workers. The stampede to get children into as prestigious a school as possible grows more frenzied by the year, driven by the bragging rights that association with a name-brand university confers on status-hungry parents, who also understand the networking potential of those bright college years. There’s the allegiances of alumni, too, whose donations flow more lavishly when their alma mater’s sports teams are winning. Such tribal sympathies confer unjustified admissions authority on college athletics directors. When the sleazy sports directors in the Singer scheme certified the student applicants as varsity material, their word was apparently final in admissions offices.
What the pay-to-play admissions scam does not demonstrate, however, is that “legacy” admissions are somehow more corrupt than race-based affirmative-action admission policies—which seems to be the primary lesson that left-wing commentators and politicians are taking from the scandal—or that meritocracy is a “myth” that has now been debunked. Racial preferences are a far more significant deviation from academic meritocracy than legacy preferences, which are not even implicated in the current scandal. An underreported but salient detail in the Singer scam is that he “falsified students’ ethnicities,” according to the New York Times, because “some families and students perceive their racial backgrounds can hurt or aid their chances of getting in to schools that consider race in their admissions decisions.” This is not a mere perception; it is the truth.
The claim that blacks are disadvantaged in college admissions, especially compared with legacies, is false. At Middlebury, the admission rate of legacies in the class of 2006 was 45 percent, compared with 27 percent for the entire class, according to the New York Times. But the 30 legacies admitted were also more academically qualified, with an average SAT score of 1,389, 33 points higher than the class average. By contrast, nearly 60 percent of all black and Hispanic applicants were admitted. Though the Times did not report their average SAT scores, it is a virtual certainty, given unbroken national patterns, that they were roughly a standard deviation below the class average.