EDITORIAL: The Small Things

The biggest college admissions scandal the FBI has ever prosecuted: wealthy individuals paying for their kids’ admissions into elite institutions with fake athletic records and artificially inflated test scores. And a Cornell alumnus, Gordon Caplan ’88, is among the offenders. This scandal goes to the root of a noxious, pervasive problem in higher education — the influence of money on opportunity. Though the $500,000 in bribes from actress Lori Loughlin to the University of Southern California is an extreme example of this national problem, universities like Cornell let wealth legally influence their admissions in small but unfair ways every year. While our University is “need-blind” for domestic applicants, we do not remove money from the admissions process.

PINERO | The Real College Admissions Scandal

We call education an “investment,” which typically refers to money spent with the eventual expectation of a return. My rough calculation of the number of students and the average cost of tuition indicates that over $400 billion is “invested” in college every year. For scale, with that money you could own JPMorgan Chase, Facebook or Johnson & Johnson and still have the equivalent of Alaska’s GDP to spare. This week, dozens of parents and administrators were arrested on fraud charges in relation to a sprawling scheme for admission to some of the nation’s top colleges. These parents “invested” six- and seven-figures to cheat on standardized tests and manipulate the athletic admissions process to ensure their children’s acceptance.