In what’s being called the largest college admissions scam ever, a number of wealthy parents, celebrities, and college prep coaches have been accused of offering large bribes to get rich students into Ivy League schools, regardless of their credentials.
The parents facing charges allegedly paid up to $6.5 million to get their kids into college.
Shocking as it is, this is hardly a new phenomenon in higher education. Wealthy and privileged students have always had an upper hand in being accepted to prestigious universities.
They’re called “legacy preferences.”
“Many U.S. colleges admit ‘legacies,’ or students with a family connection to the university, at dramatically higher rates than other applicants,” The Guardian explains, because “they are widely seen as a reliable source of alumni donations.”
Some of our countries most prominent figures have benefited from legacy preferences. When applying to Harvard, future president John F. Kennedy noted that his father was an alumnus. And although his academic record was unspectacular, he was admitted into the Ivy League school.
The same can be said for George W. Bush, whose father and grandfather graduated from Yale. Despite his “lackluster grades,” The Guardian reported, Bush was accepted.
This overt — and legal — preference for the wealthy and powerful goes back at least a century. Yet when the children of middle class families are denied admission, some families have laid the blame on affirmative action programs for students of color, who’ve historically faced discrimination.
As the college admissions process becomes more competitive, campaigns against affirmative action have revved up immensely. In 2016, Abigail Fisher challenged the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions program after being rejected when she applied for a university program designed for the top 10 percent of her class.
Despite not having the credentials to get into the program, Fisher cited affirmative action as the reason why she was denied. In other words, she claimed she was being discriminated against because she was white. Her case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that affirmative action is in fact constitutional and doesn’t hurt white students.