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College admissions cheating scandal symptom of a greater problem

https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/college-admissions-cheating-scandal-symptom-greater-problem/

Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among at least 40 people indicted in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal. | AP photo

When my oldest daughter received her acceptance letter from Spelman College many years ago, it was the proudest moment in my life.

Coming from a large family, going away to college was something I could only dream about.

I couldn’t wait to sashay around social gatherings mentioning that my daughter had been accepted to one of the elite schools in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities network.

So I get why wealthy parents would want to send a child to Harvard or Yale or any of the other top colleges in this country.

But revelations that those parents allegedly lied and cheated to get their children admitted to elite universities points to the bigger problem.

Education is the great equalizer and people of privilege, most of whom are white, aren’t trying to give up an inch of that privilege.

Frankly, it is no accident that the majority of black and brown children are stuck in low-performing public schools while the majority of white students attend selective enrollment or private schools.

But even with a lack of resources, more of those students are excelling and are headed to those top colleges and universities, leaving fewer seats for so-called “legacy” students.

Tuesday’s bust of a multi-million dollar college admissions cheating scheme highlights the lengths some wealthy parents will go to in order to give their offspring the edge in the Ivy League sweepstakes.

Federal prosecutors charged 50 people in what they called the “biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Departments.”

Parents were charged with paying an estimated $25 million in bribes to dupe admission officers at top universities that included Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Some of the bribes were paid to corrupt college coaches that falsely listed the prospective students as recruits.

The schemes ran the gamut — from “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli allegedly forking over $500,000 to have their two daughters labeled as recruits to the USC crew team even though neither participated in the sport — to “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman allegedly paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation so that her daughter could participate in an entrance exam cheating scam.

The list of fraudsters included prominent people in the fields of law, finance, fashion and other corporate entities.

I suspect a lot of people are outraged, but not shocked by these revelations.

After all, most of us know of a working-class or poor parent who has gamed the system to get their child into a better public school.

These desperate parents could be charged with fraud for using a relative or friend’s address to enroll their child in a good suburban school.

But they would rather take that risk than send their child to an inferior neighborhood school.

And Chicago’s selective enrollment schools were ripe for scamming, though new investigative measures have greatly reduced the fraud.

In a year-end report released in January, the inspector general for the Chicago Public Schools, found seven instances of families scamming to get their kids in fiercely competitive schools between July 1, 2017 and June 20, 2018.

The cheaters included a CPS analyst and his wife who put down a phony Washington Park address instead of their actual address in the Dunning neighborhood to help get their daughter into Whitney Young Magnet High School.

In another instance, a parent of a Jones College Prep student gave a Brainerd neighborhood address even though the student lived in Oak Lawn.

Under the circumstances, it is easy to understand why these parents would try to game the system.

But what excuse could the wealthy parents charged in this federal investigation have for their behavior?

They could afford to pay for the best private schools to prepare their children for a chance to attend an elite university.

And they could afford the best tutors to shore up any deficiencies or skill gaps their children might have.

These wealthy parents paid people to take tests for their children (which makes it hard to believe the students were blind to the scams) and bribed test administrators to look the other way.

“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected,” the feds point out.

While most college-bound seniors won’t get into one of the country’s top universities, they shouldn’t be cheated out of the opportunity.