College Corruption Goes Deeper Than The Admissions Process


Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

The recent college admissions scandal has shed some light on how corrupt the college admissions process is, and furthermore how college is a brand. The richest people in America will pay millions to sneak their children into a well-known, elite school for status by bribing college coaches, faking SAT scores or donating a building. Paying for a “big name college degree” is just like buying a whole closet of Gucci in their eyes. It’s no news that America’s top 5% have a complete advantage. For example, although not convicted, President Trump had made donations totaling $1.4 million to The University of Pennsylvania that most likely got his children in, stated a March 2019 article from The Inquirer.

“It was very sobering to learn how many spots were reserved for certain students; whether it is legacy students, whether it is development cases, whether their parents have already given significant money to the institution or plan to. Once you fill up your class with those institutional priorities there isn’t a whole lot of room left for regular kids that are absolutely extraordinary but no one is fighting for them,” said Sara Harberson, an Associate Dean of Admissions at UPENN to VICE News. The corrupt admissions process at elite schools isn’t what the country should be focusing on, the true crisis is the outrageous debt that college students face after graduation.

The extreme cost of tuition means that fewer and fewer low and middle class students can attend college. This stretches the already lengthy wage gap even further, seeing that in today’s economy a college degree is a winning factor in getting a job. A person’s college diploma makes them $17,500 a year more than versus only having a high school diploma, according to a 2016 Cornerstone University article. But just because a college graduate makes statistically more money than a person without a degree, that’s not always the case. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, billionaires, didn’t go to college; and many blue collar and trade jobs don’t require a degree to be successful. Furthermore, going to university does help when it comes to employment, but the status of the university doesn’t correlate with success. A person’s ambition, talent and work ethic makes them successful, not what school they went to. These private elite institutions don’t define people. The government can’t control the cost of education at a private institutions, or their admissions processes. However, the government can work towards making public colleges free, or even significantly cheaper, so that the wage gap between the upper class and lower class can shrink.

Without federal and state funding, universities have bumped up the prices in the last decades by tens of thousands. For example, an education at Brown University, with housing and other fees, is priced at $77,540 a year. The median income for the United States is $31,876 according to The Balance. How is the average American supposed to pay that without being crushed by loans? In fact, the average student graduates with $37,172 in debt. Currently, the total student loan debt in the United States is $1.48 trillion, which is more than the national credit card debt, according to a March 2019 Student Debt Relief report. Students are told to go to college to get a job and then have to pay off the tuition for the rest of their lives. More and more students aren’t attending college because of the price tag – that’s not surprising.

College Rate said, “The published an article in January 2014 that claimed the federal government would only have to spend ‘a mere $62.6 billion dollars’ to make tuition at public colleges free for undergraduates in 2012.” Free public college is completely reasonable seeing that the government spends $70 billion on non-loan educational aid such as Pell and work study grants, according a March 2019 WBUR Station article. On the other hand, the federal government could reduce the $700 billion defense budget to help pay for schooling. If they can, why doesn’t the government just make college universal? It’s because the federal government makes billions off of student loans. It’s a money game. The government has low interest rates on loans (5.05% to 7.60%), but over time the amount you must pay back can increase by thousands of dollars. Therefore, the government is making profits from generations of people that just wanted an education and a well-paying job.

In 1965, the government passed the Higher Education Act which encouraged high school students to pursue a college education. The government told universities it would guarantee tuition for students; as a result, colleges bumped up the tuition prices to get more money since the government said they would pay for it. However, the government is completely in debt and couldn’t afford that. Student loans were at first taken out of banks so that that banks could make money off of interest. When they saw that banks were making money in the middle of the 20th century, the government started selling student loans to make money at low interest rates, according to Minority Mindset. Now that there’s a total debt of $1.48 trillion in student loans, many argue the government should pay off, or forgive, all student loans. However, that cause inflation when they borrow more money from the Federal Reserve or could raise taxes. This crisis wasn’t an accident, the government just wanted to suck up people’s money.

Before 1972, students could get federally backed loans to pay for school, but there weren’t enough funds to go around. In time, President Nixon created the Student Loan Marketing Association, also known as Sallie Mae. Based on a 2017 truTV report with Adam Conover, this establishment bought loans from banks and freed up financial institutions. Therefore, the government could issue more loans and more kids could go to college. Problems arose when the government privatized Sallie Mae. Afterwards, the program made a fortune off of government fees. Sallie Mae even tricked students into taking out more loans than they could ever afford. Finally, in 2010, the Government cut out programs like Sallie Mae, but millions of Millennials now are stuck with an impossible debt for wanting to get an education. If a student defaults on a student loan the government can take up to 15% of their paycheck based on a 2017 CNBC report. This government meddling when it comes to college needs to stop.

An average high school student can help advocate for free education by campaigning or voting, when 18, for government officials that want to tackle the student debt crisis, like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. It’s not impossible to achieve, seeing that countries like Sweden, Germany, France, and Norway all have universal college. Another alternative method could be linking the cost of tuition with the incomes of individual American households. Those who can afford to pay have to pay, but the average cost would be significantly less for everyone.

The rich being able to get into elite schools easily is not breaking news. Forget the corrupt admissions progresses at elite schools. The more startling fact is how much college actually costs, and the decline in students that can even afford to go. The wage gap widens between the upper and lower class, as the upper class is able to afford tuition and the average Americans can’t. If the United States really values education, it needs to address the college tuition crisis before the whole country is carrying loans on their backs.

Student Loan Debt