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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

When White Privilege Didn't Save The Day

This week, a bombshell dropped over revelations that wealthy parents, including celebrities bribed their children’s way into some of the most prestigious institutions in a college admissions scandal.

Actors such as Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were arrested after the FBI alleges they and many other wealthy, white parents took part in an elaborate plan that got their children admitted into these schools, including onto college sports teams - even if their child had never played sports before.

Meanwhile, there are black and brown students who have been busting their asses working twice as hard to get into elite colleges with no avail. Sadly, most black and brown students are admitted to these schools simply because of their skin color and not recognized for their hard work.

Not even white privilege could save the day in this one. The situation paints a portrait that we have always known but the industry has tried to hide: That it’s a system accessible to the wealthy and elite. The economy is structured to have different rules for different people. It’s now being put out on front street in an egregious way.

Saying that it’s not fair is an understatement. We know the entire process is unfair for a lot of black and brown students, including undermining the use of race in college admissions. However, it’s not just a problem of the pervasiveness of wealth to influence admission. It’s also about race and class.

When we talk about income inequality in education, it means wealthier communities with higher tax bases automatically have more money to pay for things like better teachers, AP courses, and college counselors – all of which provide an advantage in the college admissions process.

Now, combine that with families who can also afford tutors for the SAT and ACT, additional tutors to go over college essays until they are perfect and costs for recreational sports, music lessons and other extracurricular activities. Admission to the most elite colleges is assumed by many lower-income families to be out of reach.

Lower-income students who are qualified for top-tier schools rarely apply based on the assumption that they cannot afford the cost of tuition.

This situation begs the question: Is college even worth it? Well, we know it is otherwise these parents wouldn’t have done this. They know the value of a quality education; the doors it will open and the foundation it provides. However, the fact that admission slots go to unprepared, rich kids while so many smart and well-prepared kids are being left on the sidelines is disturbing.

It’s a selfish move for these parents, and now they are going to pay the price – for real. Will this prompt a larger conversation about all the ways non-illegal uses of privilege can also undermine the admissions process? Of course. What will be done about it – well, that remains to be seen.

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