Straight Talk from Al Jacobs
COLLEGE ADMISSION – AT A PRICE
The revelation that wealthy parents paid substantial bribes to get their offspring enrolled into elite universities came as a surprise. It didn’t occur to me that a high school graduate with reasonably good grades and SAT score, and whose parents could afford the full tuition, would not be admitted into a respectable institute of higher learning. More specifically, I presumed that if there were no openings available in schools such as Princeton or Yale, a perfectly suitable education could be obtained at California State University Fullerton – or if necessary to start even more modestly, at Long Beach City College.
Obviously I didn’t realize what higher education has become to the more affluent among us. Universities are no longer sites of learning, but rather status symbols with the legitimacy of meritocracy attached to them. As for the influential parents of a son or daughter with only average ability, possibly they hope the child will be surrounded by the sort of students who deserve to be there, so the talent will rub off on their less-than-astute offspring. And at the very least, their progeny’s entrance into and degree from a prestige institution becomes, among whatever else is important, confirmation of their parenting skills.
It’s clear I’ve been oblivious to what education represents today. A couple of generations ago it was possible to spend the freshman and sophomore years inexpensively in a community college, transfer to the University of California Irvine to earn a reasonably priced BS, and remain on for a Master’s Degree in the subject of your choice. Student loans were far less necessary and if your major was meaningful, employment normally followed shortly after graduation. Exactly why education has been transformed into high-priced lunacy is somewhat vague, though I suspect it’s because the schools discovered there were ways to enhance their income.
A final thought: If I were a graduating high school student I would probably enroll in a community college, as I once did, and earn my BS in the Cal State system. I’m convinced the education acquired by a hard-working student in this manner is as sound as what will be learned during four years at Harvard … and in the long haul, the diploma will be every bit as valuable. Although it’s true that prestige may open doors, a lifetime of accomplishment transcends the initial benefits of favoritism.