The big story (besides that the Russian Collusion accusations look more and more like an attempt to smear Trump in order to minimize the damage to Hillary’s campaign from Servergate) is the FBI arrest of dozens of parents and officials involved in a scheme to create fraudulent documents and cover up bribes paid in order to get their subpar children into a good school. The arrests include actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughner, who will be trading out her Hallmark Channel specials for Lifetime’s Movie of the Week. A number of commentators have asked why this is illegal, or even a scandal at all, considering that it has long been known that generous “donations” to the school are a way for wealthy parents to secure a spot for their children, and of course schools have long given legacies a advantage in admissions.
The large donations and legacy admissions are baked into the system and I think everyone expects them, and to an extent it’s honest corruption. Susie’s dad donates a wing to the science building and Susie gets admission. Billy’s dad went to Ivy U so Billy is a legacy and gets admission and the family gives generously to the alumni foundation. The school benefits enough to justify the admission, the students benefit from the money which goes towards infrastructure or personnel without raising tuition, and the number of admitted students in most cases is small.
What makes this scandal so infuriating is that athletics and stellar academics were seen as a way for the non-wealthy to secure a spot in a good school. If you don’t have $10 million for a new building, or a last name that traces itself to the Mayflower, your kid could still have a shot if they worked their butt off on the practice field or in the library. Sure, mom and dad may pay for private tutors and test prep, but it still required work on the part of the student. Now we’re finding out that these wealthy folks were destroying even that path through fraud.