College Cheating Scandal: A Middle Class Student Reaction



About three weeks ago, a huge story broke about a college admission scandal involving a plethora of people including administrators, coaches of big name schools, actors and lots of money.  Among the people named in the scandal were Lori Loughan and Felicity Huffman, two well known actors who had paid large sums of money in a variety of different ways to get their children into established, well known universities.  

While headlines spewed across the television and adjectives such as “shocking” and “unbelievable” followed the news headlines and news anchors acted in disbelief, college students shrugged their shoulders and continued onto class.  In a world that is so wealth based and where opportunity is given to those who have, why would we think that higher education would be any different?

It is easy for someone who is a grown adult to be shocked about the cheating scandal that has risen, that they are so far removed from the college admissions process that they don’t see the correlation between wealth and admissions? Higher education, even from the beginning is an expensive process that favors the upper class.

Though the SAT’s and ACT’s have changed their curriculum and testing format to create a “more fair process,” the tests are still geared towards the upper class. These tests are supposed to emulate what students have learned in their 12 years of education. While this may be true, there are still strategies involved in testing that take practice to become successful at. Many students prepare for these exams by purchasing testing materials. Some families even decide to enroll their children in SAT tutoring, where prices can range from $75 dollars and upwards depending on the person, student, and program. Not to mention taking the test itself costs money. According to the College Board, this price can vary from $47.50 to $64.50 depending on if the student decides to take the essay portion.

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The cost of applying doesn’t stop at taking the tests. Many colleges have application fees which can vary depending on the school you’re applying to. There is an option to waive these fees if you fill out a financial aid waiver but the costs of applications can vary anywhere from $50 to $200. Then once you’re accepted and decide to go to a university, many times there is a fee to secure your spot at the school. While all these costs seem small and manageable, they quickly add up. If you are someone who doesn’t have a lot of discretionary income, the numbers can feel daunting.

Everyone knows that the cost of higher education in the United States is extremely pricey. Though there are grants, scholarships and loan options available, navigating financial aid can be confusing, frustrating and anxiety producing. Sure, there are people that end up getting their school paid for, those who work hard and finish by themselves but for a majority of us, we need help. Sometimes that comes in the form of parents completely paying for an education or someone co-signing student loans but if you don’t have someone to do either of those things, attending and succeeding can be an uphill battle.

Then, staying in school and finishing is a challenge. If you grew up in a lower income area and attend a high performing school where your previous education lacked, you may struggle to stay enrolled and keep your desired GPA. Of course, I am not saying that this is the case always. There are plenty of people that make it and succeed in higher education but if you grew up in low income, achieving higher education can be challenging. If you grew up with a wealthy background and a comfortable life, there are fewer challenges you face financially which allow for focus on academics.

Where you go to high school, where you grow up, who supports you and the resources that you grew up with all make up some of the determinants on where you will go to school. So, why does it even matter that these parents took the time to cheat for their children? In the eyes of the modern student, they were going to get in anyway. I mean, it does matter that they did this, it is morally wrong but the question is why? When the higher education system is already rigged to favor the upper class, why did they even bother?

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash