Author Topic: College Admissions Scandal  (Read 704 times)

Bill Hiatt

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College Admissions Scandal
« on: March 23, 2019, 06:13:24 AM »
I suppose by now most of you have heard about it, but if not, here's a summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_college_admissions_bribery_scandal (Yes, frighteningly enough, there's already a Wikipedia entry. If you'd prefer a different source, search under College Admissions Scandal to find a ton of stuff.)

I thought it was worth mentioning in passing as a reminder that indie publishing isn't the only place where unethical shortcuts are alleged to have been taken. In this case, we're talking about millions of dollars in bribes, paying people to take exams for applicants, paying proctors to help test-takers, altering exam results, creating fake evidence of nonexistent athletic achievements, etc. The organizer (head of a college counseling service) has plead guilty to a number of charges. The roles of others are still alleged, and some will have first court appearances as early as next week. Some are reportedly under pressure to settle on the premise that even more charges could be coming in the near future.

This is described as the biggest case of its kind the Justice Department has ever pursued, with over 50 people involved and money in excess of 25 million--and the FBI is still digging around to find even more participants.

As a former teacher, I'm saddened but not surprised. Sometimes, parents motivated initially by a positive impulse (helping their children) get carried away. Even in my one little high school, I saw unsuccessful bribery attempts, attempts by parents to help students cheat or to help them get away with cheating, and similar shenanigans. That's small potatoes compared to what the FBI found--but then again, it's only one school. I imagine similar attempts have occurred elsewhere.

College admissions have become so competitive that it was inevitably some people would succumb to the pressure.

It's hard to even know how to address an issue like this. There's no easy way to get people to place a greater value on honesty. There's so much thinking that the ends justify the means.


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Maggie Ann

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2019, 11:33:01 PM »
I heard about this the other day. Terrible, but unfortunately not surprising.

How in heaven's name do these kids expect to get through their classes if they didn't qualify to get into college on their own? And unless the parents pay out a lot more money, they most likely will not even graduate.

The worst part is that worthy applicants who might have gotten in found themselves turned away.

Bah!!!
           
 
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PJ Post

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2019, 12:30:40 AM »
I think it's a natural extension of our win-at-all-cost capitalist society. This is America. Everything is still the wild wild west, and many many - many Americans are looking for shortcuts and loopholes and cheats. If you're not elite, in whatever your area of concern - you're a Nobody. We worship our athletes, rock stars and even our business 'leaders'. If you go to Yale...you're the Man, if you go to State...meh, there's always a career in fast food.

Of course, none of these things have anything to do with being happy or a good human or even how much one contributes to society. But we are a nation of Fausts, where winning is the only thing that matters. It's so ingrained into our society, not even a generation of participation trophies could shake it. We value 'Likes', seeking validation from unknown screen names and avatars. It was here before the internet. No matter how small the group, (any high school, for example), they have always had the elites and the pariahs. And I'm not just talking about the students, this goes for the teachers too. The internet has just turned the phenomenon up to eleven.

Cue Dunning-Kruger.

It's yet another example of moral-relativism infecting our society like a glioblastoma. When right and wrong, and good and evil become fake news, when the Shining City on the Hill is preoccupied with caging minority children, incarceration profiteering and murdering civilians around the world...I'm not sure we should be all that surprised by the horribleness we embrace - or allow - here at home.

Disclaimer: I'm on the capitalism is good side of things, in fact, I'm on the greed is good side of things - with the caveat that the line needs to be drawn somewhere south of Caligula.
 
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Bill Hiatt

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Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2019, 01:05:14 AM »
I think it's a natural extension of our win-at-all-cost capitalist society. This is America. Everything is still the wild wild west, and many many - many Americans are looking for shortcuts and loopholes and cheats. If you're not elite, in whatever your area of concern - you're a Nobody. We worship our athletes, rock stars and even our business 'leaders'. If you go to Yale...you're the Man, if you go to State...meh, there's always a career in fast food.

Of course, none of these things have anything to do with being happy or a good human or even how much one contributes to society. But we are a nation of Fausts, where winning is the only thing that matters. It's so ingrained into our society, not even a generation of participation trophies could shake it. We value 'Likes', seeking validation from unknown screen names and avatars. It was here before the internet. No matter how small the group, (any high school, for example), they have always had the elites and the pariahs. And I'm not just talking about the students, this goes for the teachers too. The internet has just turned the phenomenon up to eleven.

Cue Dunning-Kruger.

It's yet another example of moral-relativism infecting our society like a glioblastoma. When right and wrong, and good and evil become fake news, when the Shining City on the Hill is preoccupied with caging minority children, incarceration profiteering and murdering civilians around the world...I'm not sure we should be all that surprised by the horribleness we embrace - or allow - here at home.

Disclaimer: I'm on the capitalism is good side of things, in fact, I'm on the greed is good side of things - with the caveat that the line needs to be drawn somewhere south of Caligula.
A nation of Fausts? Even if I didn't know you were a writer, I'd be able to tell from the interesting use of language and imagery in this post.

I draw some consolation from the fact that people are actually shocked by what's been disclosed. I think this may also lead to a healthy dialog about how college admissions should work. Now there's more conversation about whether or not private colleges should be able to favor the children of donors or legacies. Both practices are currently legal, but the donation one in particular seems more than a little like bribing the college instead of bribing an individual. With regard to legacies, I will say, having worked for many years in high school, that I've known students who were legacies and didn't get in, so at least being a legacy isn't an automatic ticket no matter what.

Sports makes a little more sense, though colleges have tended to weigh it too heavily. In the 1970s, there was a major scandal when it came to light that some colleges were admitting functionally illiterate athletes and then finding ways to cajole or coerce their professors into giving them high enough grades to keep playing. I don't exactly what changes were made, but the practice effectively ended (or at least became more subtle). At one point, I was dealing with a senior who'd failed my class but wanted me to write a recommendation to [name redacted college], which was trying to offer him an admission and a scholarship to play golf. I wrote an honest response, and the college told the student to try to get more positive responses from other teachers. This went on so long that the head counselor finally called the admissions office and said essentially, "This student's transcript is an accurate reflection of his work here. If you want to admit him for golf, do so--but stop trying to get us to pretend his academic record was different from what it was." I think practices like that will also be under the microscope again.

The worst part of all of this, as Maggie Ann suggests, is that it doesn't happen in a vacuum. College space is limited, especially at highly selective schools. Every student who gets admitted but may not really deserve it takes a space away from a student who does deserve it. It's really as simple as that.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2019, 12:44:26 AM by Bill Hiatt »


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PJ Post

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2019, 02:31:22 AM »
I agree, fortunately, most people are shocked. But we see so many people getting away with this stuff that it wears on the honest folks, and it gets harder and harder to hang on to our principles - our integrity, especially when kids are at risk. We see that with Indies and their increasing fondness for gray-hat fashion - we'll, everyone else is doing it, right? It's the only way to remain competitive, right? It's the only way to get nominated for a prestigious award, right?

I think one new strategy that might alleviate some of this nonsense is post-high school vocational schools. Not everyone is going to be a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer. We don't even need them to be. I agree with universities teaching general studies, but not all career paths require a well-rounded background (besides, they should be teaching that in high school). For example, accounting is about as straight forward as it gets. I'm not sure the average CPA needs to know the history of economics to balance the books or recommend tax strategies.

I think more streamlined higher education would be really helpful, especially if it only requires a year or two of study to completely change careers. Kids are forced to make way too many decisions before they have any idea of who they are or what they want to do with their lives. So often, it's parents, like those in the scandal, that pressure kids down one path or another - kind of like it's always been done.

If I had announced I wanted to be a writer right out of high school, after the hysterical and possibly coma-inducing laughter subsided, they'd say, "but, seriously, what are you going to major in? You need a career, you know? A job."
 
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Maggie Ann

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2019, 03:26:00 AM »
I agree, fortunately, most people are shocked. But we see so many people getting away with this stuff that it wears on the honest folks, and it gets harder and harder to hang on to our principles - our integrity, especially when kids are at risk. We see that with Indies and their increasing fondness for gray-hat fashion - we'll, everyone else is doing it, right? It's the only way to remain competitive, right? It's the only way to get nominated for a prestigious award, right?

I think one new strategy that might alleviate some of this nonsense is post-high school vocational schools. Not everyone is going to be a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer. We don't even need them to be. I agree with universities teaching general studies, but not all career paths require a well-rounded background (besides, they should be teaching that in high school). For example, accounting is about as straight forward as it gets. I'm not sure the average CPA needs to know the history of economics to balance the books or recommend tax strategies.

I think more streamlined higher education would be really helpful, especially if it only requires a year or two of study to completely change careers. Kids are forced to make way too many decisions before they have any idea of who they are or what they want to do with their lives. So often, it's parents, like those in the scandal, that pressure kids down one path or another - kind of like it's always been done.

If I had announced I wanted to be a writer right out of high school, after the hysterical and possibly coma-inducing laughter subsided, they'd say, "but, seriously, what are you going to major in? You need a career, you know? A job."

Yes to vocational schools. I think my family and friends are getting tired of hearing me up on the "trades" soap box. Affordable vocational schools preferably state sponsored.

There are, of course, private schools like Kaiser University and the late Virginia College, but my grandson went to VC Culinary School and it cost $5K just for the first session. How about we put shop and home ec (for both sexes) back in the high schools for basic survival skills. Not everybody's parents teach them how to cook a meal or fix a leaky faucet.

Alexa told me about lawnmower parenting which plays right into this college admissions scandal.

"Named after the device used for cutting grass, a lawnmower parent will intervene or "mow down" any person or obstacle that stands in the way of them saving their child from any "inconvenience, problem or discomfort," according to a college professor who wrote a blog on the subject."

Nothing new here. We used to call it spoiled rotten.
           
 
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Mammasan

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2019, 03:53:27 AM »
It's just that these parents did it the dishonest way, instead of the legal way. If you donate money to a school (especially if you are an alumnus)  you reserve your kid's spot there in the future as a "legacy." It's the norm. It's how Jared Kushner got into Harvard when there were lots of kids at his high school with far better grades than his who didn't. His Dad had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Harvard in advance, and pledged more for later. Same for (the younger) George Bush getting into Yale. Colleges justify the practice by saying they use the money they take in from this bribery to pay for poor kids. I understand Europe doesn't have this system at all.

It's completely legal. No meritocracy involved at all. Where these parents screwed up is that they gave the bribe money to individuals rather than directly to the school. That's why the schools are cooperating; these individuals muscled in on the school's racket: selling its seats to rich people.
 
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Bill Hiatt

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Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2019, 05:46:14 AM »
I agree, fortunately, most people are shocked. But we see so many people getting away with this stuff that it wears on the honest folks, and it gets harder and harder to hang on to our principles - our integrity, especially when kids are at risk. We see that with Indies and their increasing fondness for gray-hat fashion - we'll, everyone else is doing it, right? It's the only way to remain competitive, right? It's the only way to get nominated for a prestigious award, right?

I think one new strategy that might alleviate some of this nonsense is post-high school vocational schools. Not everyone is going to be a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer. We don't even need them to be. I agree with universities teaching general studies, but not all career paths require a well-rounded background (besides, they should be teaching that in high school). For example, accounting is about as straight forward as it gets. I'm not sure the average CPA needs to know the history of economics to balance the books or recommend tax strategies.

I think more streamlined higher education would be really helpful, especially if it only requires a year or two of study to completely change careers. Kids are forced to make way too many decisions before they have any idea of who they are or what they want to do with their lives. So often, it's parents, like those in the scandal, that pressure kids down one path or another - kind of like it's always been done.

If I had announced I wanted to be a writer right out of high school, after the hysterical and possibly coma-inducing laughter subsided, they'd say, "but, seriously, what are you going to major in? You need a career, you know? A job."

Yes to vocational schools. I think my family and friends are getting tired of hearing me up on the "trades" soap box. Affordable vocational schools preferably state sponsored.

There are, of course, private schools like Kaiser University and the late Virginia College, but my grandson went to VC Culinary School and it cost $5K just for the first session. How about we put shop and home ec (for both sexes) back in the high schools for basic survival skills. Not everybody's parents teach them how to cook a meal or fix a leaky faucet.

Alexa told me about lawnmower parenting which plays right into this college admissions scandal.

"Named after the device used for cutting grass, a lawnmower parent will intervene or "mow down" any person or obstacle that stands in the way of them saving their child from any "inconvenience, problem or discomfort," according to a college professor who wrote a blog on the subject."

Nothing new here. We used to call it spoiled rotten.
I'm not sure vocational schools would solve this particular problem--parents wiling to cheat to get their kids into prestigious universities aren't the type to think about vocational alternatives.

That said, vocational training would solve some problems. Every student should be prepared for college, just in case--plans change. But not every student needs to go to college. There are a lot of career pathways that don't in any way require it. Society makes a mistake in looking down on these pathways.

The high school where I used to work was and still is obsessed with everyone going, not just to college, but to a four-year school. There was at one point a proposal to make applying for a four-year school in to a graduation requirement (which would mean the school would have to pay for the application fee). The theory was that would make more people think about college. Fortunately, that idea didn't make it, but the general atmosphere is still the same.

Part of the problem is that society as a whole evaluates schools partly on the basis of how many students who graduate go to what kind of college. A better measure would be how successful students are later in life. The problem is that data is hard to come by. We know how students in general do in high school. Records exist who gets accepted to what college. Then the ability to find data stops. For the most part, we don't know how well they do in college (or whatever they choose to do after graduation). We don't know how successful they are in their chosen careers. Some of my former students went in a vocational direction and are doing fine. But we have no way of measuring that and connecting it to a particular school, so instead we used the inadequate yardstick of who went to what college, because that data is available. That puts pressure on schools to shove students toward college even in they have interests that lie elsewhere. And we shape school policies to work in that direction. That's what I call press-release education reform--it sounds good to increase college enrollments and get students into more selective schools, but it isn't the right fit for everyone.

The college intellectual experience probably benefits people even if they don't need it vocationally, but as expensive as college is, it's a mistake to force people into it just for that.


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PJ Post

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2019, 02:17:00 AM »
I think the word 'vocation' throws people off. All too often it reminds us of automotive repair or maybe dental hygienists. But this same principle could teach accounting, coding, illustration, graphic design, 3D art, software literacy, journalism, languages, music, photography and medical technology, as well as construction, trades and even the ubiquitous dental hygiene.

As I said...I'm all for capitalism, but...

We have to remove the profit motive from basic human necessities, like medical care, education and some form of an unemployment safety net. Managing prisons is a for-profit enterprise in America, literally making money off of the incarceration of people - of other human beings, kind of like slavery. It's sickening. And we wonder why we lock up more people than any other nation on earth. These same companies have lobbyists, thereby shaping the law as it pertains to, yep, locking people up - and keeping them locked up. That the system is tilted against poor urban neighborhoods - that's shorthand for racist as f*ck - makes it all the more inhumane.

And donít even get me started on the rising cost of life-saving medication that, until very recently, was dirt cheap, such as epipens or insulin. Epipens went from around $100 for a two-pack to over $700 in the last couple of years, just so they could make more money. A vile of insulin went from, adjusted for inflation, $10 in the 90ís to over $300 today. Duh fuque!? We Ė that is, our current government Ė is literally allowing pharmaceutical companies to murder people, in order to squeeze out a little more profit. Health insurance works the same way. Like I said, itís sickening. These companies were already worth bazillions, but apparently thatís not enough. This is where the Caligula reference becomes relevant.

Anyway, how about giving kids, including those from poor neighborhoods, an opportunity...like a free education? Can you imagine how much day to day stress would disappear if we knew that an education was available to everyone? That there was hope to go along with the accountability the elite are always droning on about? Actually, we don't have to imagine it, most of Scandinavia works like this, which is why it is considered the happiest place on Earth. Education, unemployment, health care, all of the basic needs are provided for, so that the people can get on with enjoying themselves.

Now, the conspiracy minded will say that all of this (the blinding of the sheeple) is by design, that the ruling elite don't want an educated populous, because people like that tend to hold said ruling class accountable. The last time it happened, on a large scale, they opened up the Bastille and separated a significant number of heads from bodies. Lesson learned?

The whole thing kind of reminds me of AMS and CPC marketing. Paying for access.

If we applied this logic to education, then only the highest bidding students would get the best classes, not because they're more deserving or more accomplished or because they would benefit more, but simply because their parents have deeper pockets. If we apply the same thing to universities, like the scandal, then the students of wealthy parents get better resumes, because they'd fill up all of the top classes and schools. And even after school, what if we had to pay employers for the opportunity to submit a resume, and your paycheck would be the difference between your bid and the actual salary?

When we look at platform specific CPC marketing (AMS) like this, the predatory ridiculousness of it is obvious.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2019, 02:20:18 AM by PJ Post »
 
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David VanDyke

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Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2019, 03:50:18 AM »
This highlights one fundamental problem: when it comes to non-STEM, it tends to be (statistically, overall) less about the actual education than about the sheepskin and school rep. These rich parents primarily want the cachet and connections of being a Harvard grad, and the skills and knowledge imparted is secondary.

Pose the following question to the parents:

If your child could have either the Ivy League diploma, or the actual skills and knowledge, but not both, which would you choose?

The majority would choose the diploma.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 
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Bill Hiatt

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Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2019, 04:12:23 AM »
This highlights one fundamental problem: when it comes to non-STEM, it tends to be (statistically, overall) less about the actual education than about the sheepskin and school rep. These rich parents primarily want the cachet and connections of being a Harvard grad, and the skills and knowledge imparted is secondary.

Pose the following question to the parents:

If your child could have either the Ivy League diploma, or the actual skills and knowledge, but not both, which would you choose?

The majority would choose the diploma.
But they wouldn't admit to it. Or you'd get the argument that the diploma would be harder to obtain without the skills.

I don't think parents conceptualize the issue in terms of that kind of either/or choice. That said, yes, a lot of them are really more interested in the prestige rather than in the education. I've seen the same thing at the high school level. Some parents seem to fixate on the grade rather than on the learning. That's not true of everyone, but there are a lot that are happy with high grades even if the students aren't learning much. That's how some of the  less effective private schools in my area stay afloat. What a parent is really paying for is a pretty transcript. I've seen transfer students in that situation who had As in AP English, for example, but were reading below grade level and couldn't write an analytical essay to save their lives. The same kind of thing is true of honors and AP class placement. I've seen parents push their kids into honors or AP classes for which they weren't ready and then push to get the standards in the class lowered so that their kids will get a higher grade. That's a textbook case of putting transcript manipulation ahead of learning.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2019, 12:46:04 AM by Bill Hiatt »


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rowanoak

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2019, 03:06:40 PM »
I agree with PJ. The system is already rigged. Universities run on money from rich alumni and legacy admissions. These parents just did bribes on an individual level instead of directly to the school in the form of like, buying a building or contributing a lot to a scholarship fund, etc. We can prosecute them and try to teach them a lesson but that doesn't change the fact that the whole thing runs on contributions from rich donors who expect to get and do routinely get "kick backs", including the entry of their child to the school, in return. It doesn't change the fact that we are sold a lie about "meritocracy" when the real truth is that money buys elite education and everything else. This does lead to an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude and people doing things to try to give their own kids a leg up in a rigged system. I'm not trying to excuse it but just explain why it happens. I'm surprised that anyone was surprised by any of this, honestly. And I don't think it will stop because there will always be people willing to cheat and bribe to get what they want. Some get caught, some don't, and others who already have the money and connections just donate directly to the school and get their kids an unfair advantage the good old fashioned legal way, to which only a few have access compared to the broader population.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2019, 03:11:46 PM by rowanoak »
 
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notthatamanda

Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2019, 08:35:10 PM »
I've seen parents push their kids into honors or AP classes for which they weren't ready and then push to get the standards in the class lowered so that their kids will get a higher grade. That's a textbook case of putting transcript manipulation ahead of learning.

This is rampant in my town.  Both the overrides for honors and the pressure on teachers to give the kids As regardless.  When the story broke my first thought was that parents in my town would be using it as an idea board.
 
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Re: College Admissions Scandal
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2019, 12:51:29 AM »
I agree with PJ. The system is already rigged. Universities run on money from rich alumni and legacy admissions. These parents just did bribes on an individual level instead of directly to the school in the form of like, buying a building or contributing a lot to a scholarship fund, etc. We can prosecute them and try to teach them a lesson but that doesn't change the fact that the whole thing runs on contributions from rich donors who expect to get and do routinely get "kick backs", including the entry of their child to the school, in return. It doesn't change the fact that we are sold a lie about "meritocracy" when the real truth is that money buys elite education and everything else. This does lead to an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude and people doing things to try to give their own kids a leg up in a rigged system. I'm not trying to excuse it but just explain why it happens. I'm surprised that anyone was surprised by any of this, honestly. And I don't think it will stop because there will always be people willing to cheat and bribe to get what they want. Some get caught, some don't, and others who already have the money and connections just donate directly to the school and get their kids an unfair advantage the good old fashioned legal way, to which only a few have access compared to the broader population.
Yes, it's true that in many ways the system is rigged. However, I do understand the surprise about the recent revelations, partially because the parents involved are alleged to have broken the law, thus incurring a higher level of risk.

I don't think these practices will stop, but I do have some hope that the recent scandal will lead to some systemic changes, even if they don't solve the whole problem.

Unfortunately, most change is incremental, but at least society isn't standing still.


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