Rich Kid Admits: Yesterday, Now, Forever

Inside Higher Ed recently ran an article reviewing Daniel Golden's new book, The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges - and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates. Golden exposes the secret world of rich kid admits and the "sinister" pecuniary motives that drive such admissions. It is no secret that the parents of rich applicants have the capacity to donate a lot of money to a university. It is also no surprise that this process offends the sensibilities of most people, overturning the notions of meritocracy and diversity that supposedly drive the admissions process. It strikes one as manifestly unfair that a high school graduate can be accepted to an Ivy League university based not on their grade point average or test scores, but on the amount of money sitting in their parent's coffers. But, while this is unfair, it is also desirable. Universities are concerned with providing things like a quality education, a diverse and safe learning environment, and inculcating good values in future citizens. But what they are concerned about most of all, and what makes all those other desirable goals possible, is the size of their endowment. A primary source of funding for universities is fundraising from alumni, which is carried out all year. As many poor work study students can attest, the phones are manned every day in search of more alumni funding. Universities don't raise this money to enrich themselves at the expense of students, they raise this money to fund their academic and non-academic programs, to disburse funds to student groups, to pay salaries, and, most importantly, to off-set the money they lose when they provide merit- or need-based scholarships. If you doubt this, consider that most universities, and almost all the elite universities, are incorporated as non-profits, so they are constrained by state and federal law to not distribute any profit to their members, but to reinvest it in the organization. Ultimately, it is those need-based scholarships that allow the poor to attend elite colleges, thereby providing them an opportunity they deserve, but would otherwise not be able to afford. Setting aside a small percentage of total admissions to rich kids helps subsidize the scholarships that colleges would perhaps otherwise be unable to offer. We place a higher tax burden on high income taxpayers to help subsidize governmental programs. This is similar, except that it results in a benefit to the rich, rather than a burden. So I say, bring on the Richie Riches of this world, the undeserving sons of Croesus, the plutocratic heirs of Big Oil. They are probably pampered dolts and will perform terribly once they arrive, but I sure as hell am not giving any money to my undergrad. And anyway, someone needs to chair the Pan-Hellenic Council.

  1. Good point, but one thing I’d like to add – any discussion of affirmative action in college admission that doesn’t include what you’re talking about here is a farce. I’m not a fan of ham-fisted things like racial quotas, but for every white kid who loses out on the college of his choice to a black kid with slightly lower SATs, I would bet there’s just as many white kids losing out to wealthier white kids with even crappier SATs.

    September 10th, 2006 at 11:28 pm
  2. That would be great if the money from Rich kids being accepted went to poorer more deserving students, but ultimately that money usually goes to build a new Philosophy building or start a Mesopotamian history department with the donors name attached. What with government funding being cut at most state funded universities schools more and more just fund the money back into the universities upkeep rather than scholarships. And just because a university is a non-profit doesn’t mean that all of the money goes to worthy causes at the university. Look at Adelphi University in New York. For 10 years admissions were declining as well as the amount of scholarships, while the President was the highest paid in the state and the board members routinely used the university for their own financial gains.

    D Wallz
    September 10th, 2006 at 11:36 pm
  3. Buying Your Way into College – Affirmative Action for the Rich…

    We’ve written before about why schools continue the practice of favoring legacy admissions – accepting the sons and daughters of wealthy alumni.
    Now there is some empirical evidence of the economics that drive this practice. Slate Magazine re…

    Unsought Input
    July 8th, 2007 at 11:26 am

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