The journey of Ivanka Trump’s husband, and therefore President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law, to Harvard University is a little suspicious. Jared Kushner, who may end up working in the White House for his father-in-law, seems to have gotten into Harvard thanks to a small $2.5 million gift his father donated to the school just a few years before his son gained admission.
This isn’t a new revelation. In 2006, ProPublica editor Daniel Golden wrote a book called The Price of Admission about how rich people can basically pay to get their kids into elite schools. One of the case studies? Jared Kushner—who now, 10 years later, may end up being one of the most powerful figures in the Trump administration.
Golden reports that administrators at Kushner’s high school didn’t think he should have gotten in to Harvard.
“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at the Frisch School in Paramus, N.J. told Golden. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”
Of course, Kushner’s people denied to ProPublica that money had anything to do with his admission to the best university in the U.S. But in his research, Golden discovered that Kushner’s parents were both on a list of major Harvard donors, of which over half had sent children to the university. This high admission rate for a certain population (Harvard admitted only one out of nine regular applicants 10 years ago) gave the impression that Harvard gave preferential treatment to the children of people who donated a lot of money. And Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, didn’t attend Harvard himself, meaning he wasn’t donating millions of dollars just because he loved the college so much. Jared’s brother Josh, who’s dated Karlie Kloss for four years, also went to Harvard.
It may not be surprising that money can pave the way to acceptance at Harvard. But the way Jared Kushner has used his family, money and connections to potentially secure a powerful top spot in a presidential administration is a stark reminder that we are nowhere near the meritocracy many would like America to be.