Should People Be Able to Pay to Get Into College?


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College Acceptance Letter

Isabella Sorial, Editor-in-Chief

Rich families have been paying to get their kids into prestigious universities for a long time. On the surface, this seems to be cruel for the little guy and tends to expand the privilege of the elite but, in fact, there are many reasons the little guy is actually helped in this ordeal. You may be surprised to find out that most celebrities are not in the company of the Laughlins and don’t have to lie to get their kids through the door.

First, we must understand that there are many levels of this.

At the top level, we have legacies or those who make direct payments to schools. If you donate a new building to a school or have a parent who’s a trustee, they probably won’t say no to you.

In the middle, we have people who pay to fake applications and tests.

For those in the upper-middle class, there is Early Decision. If you are willing to pay the base tuition price for your top choice school, consider Early Decision. Early Decision guarantees you a spot in a school in exchange for a binding commitment to go there. It has a higher acceptance rate but in exchange for that, you are much less likely to receive aid.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some of the reasons this is a good thing.

Here Are Some Reasons Monetary Acceptances Should Stay in Place

Money proliferates education. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of applicants can’t donate to a school to fund a new program or add a new building. But we know that education is very expensive and the institutions with the most money can afford to give their students luxurious opportunities. Therefore, it might be worth it to accept students in the wealthiest one percent in order to make an institution better for the other students. 

Colleges, especially private institutions, have the right to accept anyone they please. Often, students with lots of money give a school influence. When Malia Obama attends Harvard, Harvard looks really good despite the fact that she may not have gotten 1600 on her SAT. Similarly, when an institution accepts the child of a former student, they are accepting someone they trust. They use alumni to do interviews—it’s likely they have some faith in them. You also know that that kid is in some part a product of that institution. The parents worked hard to get to a great school and their kids should be able to do that as well. Plus, alumni are often the biggest advocates of their alma mater. Harvard wants to make sure that admitted students choose to attend, and alumni children are more likely to do so. This means that they are able to offer these students less aid, and therefore put more into the pockets of those who get in on their own merit.

When students pay so much money, there is more aid available for top students. If you really are ivy-league material, you can rest assured that your dream school won’t be out of your price range. Despite their daunting price tag, those who get in with have financial need receive large sums of money in financial aid. Ivy Leagues are granted endowments in the billions of dollars from the government and they use this money to pay for highly-qualified, low-income students. In fact, families making under $65,000 a year are guaranteed full-tuition financial aid awards upon admission to most top schools. 

Is that rich kid really stealing your spot? No school has a 100% commitment rate. Not even Harvard. The percentage of people who get accepted to a college and the number who attend that school to school are very different. At this point, there are so many qualified kids. Not even someone with 1600 on their SAT is guaranteed a spot at an Ivy League. You have to be someone that the college believes will change the world. Unfortunately, someone who is rich probably already has a leg up on you in doing that.

Here Are Some Reasons Monetary Acceptances Shouldn’t Stay in Place

Technically, a spot was taken from someone else. Maybe more people are accepted than attend, but if even one less rich kid attends, someone who is not as fortunate is more likely to get in.

Acceptances not based on merit are antithetical to higher education’s purpose. A school is supposed to teach students. The best schools should be teaching the best students. A school is supposed to give its students the opportunity to do well after graduating. The alumni network and connections at top schools make it easier for their students to get great jobs. Students who are already likely to do well make the school look good because of their ultimate success—but did the institution really help cultivate that student’s success? If people are being accepted for reasons other than their drive to do well and their ability to succeed at that school, that means that other well-qualified students didn’t get the acceptance they probably deserve.

These acceptances artificially drive up a school’s selectivity. Someone who fakes a great application now gives that school another high test score to put into their average and makes other candidates look less qualified. The students who don’t actually deserve to go to top schools make it harder for students who do to get in.

Accepting legacy students literally proliferates the effects of slavery and other forms of discrimination. A seventh-generation Student at Harvard undoubtedly has priority in the application process. But think about it—who was going to Harvard 150 years ago? White men. Prior to 1950, elite universities were much less diverse. Because legacies are so helpful to universities, ethnic minorities and many other hopefuls are all competing for the same few leftover spots.

At the end of the day, only 32% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree, according to 2014 census data. Many high-paying jobs require only vocational training and you can become a skilled entrepreneur online in a split second. Plus, becoming an influencer on social media is very accessible and increasingly lucrative. You might want to take a step back and make sure that college really is the right path for you—and if it is, does going to a school with a fancy name really make a difference in the quality of your education and your opportunities after college? Harvard may seem like they have the most connections but a lot of that is because a huge number of rich students attend those schools and are able to pick up jobs from their parents. Do what feels right for you. If you do feel that Harvard is the path you’re meant to take, I wish you the best of luck.