March 18, 2019
From the editor

Back-door college admissions need to be stopped

The day after I finished preparing our story in this edition about Assumption College in Worcester seeking to broaden its appeal to applicants, the news of the national college side-door admissions scandal broke.

While small colleges like Assumption try to figure out how to get more applicants to the front door, the FBI uncovered a $25-million scheme where dozens of wealthy parents allegedly tried to bribe their children's way into prestigious schools like Georgetown University and the University of South California by manipulating their test scores and having them misclassified as recruited athletes. Law enforcement officials decried this scam as stealing opportunities from hard-working students who go through the proper channels to get into these schools, where admission can be the first step toward a more prestigious life.

More concerning, though, are back-door admissions: Wealthy parents donate millions to a school, and their child wins admission. Senior White House official Jared Kushner was admitted to Harvard University after his father donated $2.5 million to the Cambridge university, which disappointed an official at Kushner's high school as other students there had stronger applications, according to Daniel Golden's 2006 book, "The Price of Admission." Kushner went on to marry Ivanka Trump, becoming President Donald Trump's son-in-law, and now Kushner is in charge of the Middle East peace process.

This back door needs to be closed, although it won't be as easy. Unlike the side-door admissions scandal where parents allegedly were openly lying, the back-door scam is more of a wink-wink agreement. Since admissions is subjective, it is much harder to prove someone was unworthy.

Colleges have very little motivation to close this back-door. In exchange for millions of dollars to build better facilities or offer more scholarships – further raising the university's profile – all the school has to do is admit one student in a class of several hundred. Even if that student is a drag on the class, his or her impact is going to be minimal. In the business machine that is higher education, this is a win-win.

But the collegiate industry shouldn't be about who can fundraise the most money or build the nicest facilities. Colleges should be about taking the best and brightest and making them the educated and moral leaders of our society. Yes, you need money and facilities to train the best and the brightest, but you shouldn't compromise your core principals to do it. Otherwise you are giving undeserving people lifelong rewards, and that doesn't make society better.

- Brad Kane, editor

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