ProPublica- My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)
I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.
“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”
Ah, Christ. Here we go. Had to know this was coming. Quick refresher for those just joining us: a bunch of colleges are being outed for accepting bribes from parents in exchange for admission for their children. And now, morons are making a false equivalence and saying that massive, legal donations made to schools like Harvard are just as bad.
Do not equate the bribes to Yale and Stanford and all those random schools in Texas with the multi-million dollar gifts that Harvard has received over the years. Yes, of COURSE the children of those donors receive special status. Of COURSE you can probably buy your kid a ticket to Harvard for like $3 million. But you know where that money goes? Towards need-based scholarships for other students; towards research and resources; towards new science buildings, gyms, fields, dorms; towards the higher salary offers that draw the top academic scholars to teach at the university. Where the fuck do you think that money comes from? Wealthy alums. And wealthy alums want their kids to go to the school.
The Kushners (as far as I know) didn’t put $450,000 into the hand of the Harvard fencing coach in some shady hotel room. They didn’t (as far as I know) grease Jared’s SAT proctor. They made a massive donation to Harvard, and Harvard took that into consideration when evaluating their son. They put his application right at the top of the pile and said yup, we’re letting this kid in because his parents are paying for full scholarships for twelve other kids.
Except in these recent cases, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, not a “few thousand dollars.”
Otherwise, correct. That is correct, Matt. If your dad donated $2.5 million to a college, the kid’s coming. That’s just the way it is. I think they call it capitalism or something. It’s been that way since the beginning of colleges. It’s changing, but that’s how it is for now. If you want your kid to have an equal shot, toss a few million to his top choice for a new pool. Or go the economical way and pay the swimming coach to lie and say he’s the next Michael Phelps. The choice is yours.