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Everyone loses in college admissions scandal

Rick Singer
The recent college admissions scandal has captured America’s interest. Children of the rich and famous granted admission to prestigious colleges and universities through cheating and fraud. Who loses?  Everyone involved.

The most obvious victims of this scandal are the hundreds of students deprived of placement at colleges because they did not cheat on their admissions tests or lie about their participation in athletic programs. Because of the opaque nature of the admissions process, these students may never learn if they were directly affected, but many will always wonder. And many more will know that their suspicions that the system is rigged are at least in part legitimate.

The ring leader of the scandal, Rick Singer, is facing decades in prison and is cooperating in an attempt to lessen his possible sentence. Surely prosecutors will insist that any sentence he receives includes forfeiting as much of the $25 million he was allegedly paid by parents as possible.

Coaches have been indicted, fired and will most likely never work in collegiate athletics again. Their reputations and the reputations of their programs sullied.

The colleges and universities involved have lost too. While they will no doubt want to be held blameless, at least some appear to have been negligent in monitoring their admissions programs and others at a minimum clueless as to things like so-called student athletes gaining admission for sports they never played and won’t play at the college level.

The parents who paid for Singer’s services have been humiliated (or at least we hope so) and face substantial jail time. For those whose children did not know about their fraud, there will be a lot of explaining to do and most likely a lot of trust to earn back.

So, everyone loses, including surprisingly the students who were supposed to be the ultimate winners. The students who had their admissions bought for them. Whether they were aware of their parents’ actions or not, these students will spend the rest of their lives being questioned about their qualifications and advantages. And probably questioning themselves.

In seeking to gain unfair advantages for their children, these parents have sent them the message that on their own they are simply not good enough -- that they don’t measure up to their parents’ and society’s expectations without a little (or a lot) of help. This is a terrible message to send to children, especially to young adults who should be gaining the independence they will need to go off into the world on their own. And the solution, that Mom, Dad and their money can swoop in to fix anything, robs them of an experience that has come to be a rite of passage for many young Americans – the college admissions process.

Instead of teaching the values of hard work and sacrifice and the joy of being curious and of learning, these parents have taught their children the value (or in this case harm) of being able to buy yourself into a “good” school. And they did this not necessarily because of the education that these schools have to offer (there are many fine colleges and universities that presumably would have welcomed these young adults), but because of the names of these schools. Names that are now cheapened because of their association with these families and with this scandal.