The College Admissions Scandal

I didn’t pay any attention to the recent college admissions scandal, because I just didn’t care. It affected a strata of society that I can’t even smell. It didn’t affect me. At all. I thought it was ridiculous that so many people got collectively upset about it, because it’s just the way the world works. The documentary points out that it’s always been possible to give an indecorous amount of money to a university to get a placement. $50M to Harvard will get your kid in, but do you realize how little money $50M actually is when you’re a multi-billionaire?

I think the public backlash was so significant because it brought the pay-for-play action down by an order of magnitude. Instead of being the realm of billionaires, it made it accessible to the $100-million-aires. It involved people who were D-list celebrities and popular YouTubers. Combined with the fact that people feel entitled to get incensed by anything and everything on social media these days, this scandal led to an out-sized reaction.

Parents went to jail for being conned into a payola scam, when they didn’t even make checks out to the coaches. The guy at the center of it all flipped immediately, sang like a bird, and is still free. The colleges kept all the money. What about the athletic directors who looked the other way, while their coaches accepted bribes? Making Lori Laughlin-types go to jail for a few months might make the Twitter rabble feel better, but it is not justice.

The DOJ held press releases about this case, because they want “us” to feel that they “did something,” but do you realize how few spots were actually affected, and how little shutting this down matters? Singer admits to helping 750 families over 25 years. There are 7 universities listed in the Wikipedia page on the scandal. I quickly searched for the enrollment number for each, divided by 4, and added them up into a back-of-the-napkin estimation of what must have been around 1,175,000 possible admission slots over this timeframe. We’re talking maybe 1-5 slots at one of these schools in a year, out of 1,000, 5,000, or even 10,000 freshmen. People are starting to sue about this, but if you didn’t get into one of those schools during this time, it’s pretty hard to blame Singer’s involvement unless you can specify which particular non-athlete took a slot for your prospective sport.

So nothing really changes here. These elite schools continue to be untouchable. The costs of higher education continues to rise at three times inflation. The athletic directors still run the schools. People will continue to try to find cracks in the process, and games will still be played in athletic recruiting. And, as the last line of the documentary pointed out, the “back door” is still open to the billionaires. The DOJ hasn’t actually done a single thing of significance here.

This is what aggravates me about the scandal. Not the fact that it existed, but the fact that when it blew up, nothing that matters to anyone has changed, and I knew this would be the case. In fact, if you want to get really cynical about it, I almost see this as the billionaire-class whipping the government into action to stop the 100-million-aire class from encroaching on what they perceive as their territory. This is why I didn’t give a crap about it before, and why I care even less about it now. All the wrong things are being addressed here, and there’s literally nothing I can do about it.