Here Are All the Ways, Legal and Illegal, College is Rigged for the Rich

No one ever said the college admissions system was fair. Just like many for profit industries, the wealthy have an easier time getting their children into elite universities.

In light of the recent college admissions scandal, universities have faced increased scrutiny over their admissions processes, both legal and illegal. The cost of college tuition, which is rising nearly eight times faster than national wages, has already been a controversial topic among economists. This is a startling figure for baby Boomers and Generation Xers, most of whom didn’t have to take out student loans to graduate. But that’s not the only way universities are keeping out the middle-class.

Well-off parents routinely give generous endowments to schools in the hopes that they admit their children, including one exceptional pledge by senior White House advisor Jared Kushner’s father ($2.5 million) to help his son get into Harvard university.

In addition to wealthy students, legacy students are also given an advantage. A student whose parents are alumni of their would-be university are more likely to get accepted than a non-legacy student. Harvard’s legacy rate is somewhere around 30 percent, four times higher than the national average.

While many schools don’t take legacy into account (MIT, Caltech, UC Berkeley), it’s still an important factor for elite universities, and routinely favors affluent white families. Much like elite career paths and showbiz, college admissions can be about fostering personal connections to get ahead.

Many aspects of the college admissions process are meant to level the playing field for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, like testing and personal essays. However, wealthy parents pay for SAT and ACT tutors, test-prep courses, and essay tutors, while many families may not be able to afford them.

This has been a standard practice for as long as admissions testing has existed, but it means that money can help secure an acceptance letter. Money has literally bought acceptance letters recently, as actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, implicated in the college admissions scandal, have proven.

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