It’s not about where you go…

On Tuesday, the US Attorney for Massachusetts held a press conference regarding federal prosecutors’ investigation of instances of cheating and bribery by parents who were coordinating their child’s entrance into some “elite” universities, such as Yale, University of Southern California, or Stanford. It appears that students who may not have met admission requirements at these schools were accepted through less than ethical efforts.

From research we know that the experience one has in college is much more important than where the student actually attends. The amount of research on what a student puts into their college experience, both in and out of the classroom, leading directly to higher retention and graduation rates, and higher employment and satisfaction five to ten years post graduation is vast. It’s not necessarily where you go to school, but what you do while you are there. Parents who cheated or bribed their child’s admission into Yale may have found their child thriving at a lesser-known institution. Unfortunately, the allure of elite institutions (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech) is too great.

Fairly recently, Harvard received a monetary gift of $100 million. With a $39 billion endowment, Harvard does not need any more money. More recently, Cape Cod Community College received a $5 million gift….their largest gift ever. Imagine what a community college could do with $100 million! Giving to Cape Cod Community College may not be as sexy as giving to Harvard, but the impact, I imagine, would have been much greater.

This whole thing is very frustrating if you believe generally that the mission of higher education is educational access and economic mobility. There are so many low-income, first generation students who desperately want to earn a college degree to provide for their families and themselves, and either (1) don’t have the guidance at home or at school around the college admission and financial aid process or (2) are rejected or deemed under-prepared because of the zip code of their high school.  There are so many students who are excelling at their institution but need to stop their education and put their dreams on hold because they can’t afford the $4000 or even $1000 bill after their financial aid.

This is privilege on display front and center. And it is really sad for all of us.