AP NEWS

Understandable, but cheating on admissions oh, so very wrong

March 16, 2019

Last week, dozens of parents, coaches and experts in facilitating the path to a prestigious place of higher education found themselves accused of participating in a national college admissions scam.

As anybody who has the not-so-unique opportunity of being the first person in their family to go to college could tell you, it’s easy to see why they would do it: Getting into college is hard when you don’t have access to the side door.

When you’re the first, there is a tremendous pressure from those who didn’t have the opportunity but worked very hard to see that you do. There is a narrative of sacrifice and perseverance to live up to. There are the dreams of generations past and future to flesh out. More important, there is usually an economic incentive, such as the dream of employment that will bring more money and better position.

And that’s before you even pick up the first application. There are entrance exams and practice entrance exams, and courses that can help with those exams — and all of them come with a fee. There are campus visits, if you can afford them. If money or transportation is an issue, your options are limited by how far you can get on the bus.

A prestigious college or university in another state? Dream on.

And then there is the matter of how to pay for the whole thing. Offices of admissions are there to help, but nothing is more intimidating than talking about investing tens of thousands of dollars that you don’t have into something that you can’t see, even if it is your future. Even if you have the grades, those big schools in faraway places are for other people.

In places such as San Antonio, a lot of young people are the first in their family to apply to a college or university. That’s why the city established Café College, a place that advises students in college selection, the application process, staying in school or going back to school and figuring out financial aid. It’s funded by the city of San Antonio. Without such a resource, getting into college is impossible for many students who don’t know the way. It’s just overwhelming.

But even without taxpayer help, many, many first-year students make it to the first day of college at prestigious universities because they take their time making sense of the whole process, reading the fine print and setting long-term goals.

It’s hard, but it isn’t supposed to be easy.

So it is understandable when people who have other resources — such as lots and lots of money — use them to get into a big-name college.

It’s also wrong, which is why dozens of parents, coaches and those so-called experts in bending the rules found themselves in hot water.

What remains to be seen, however, is what will become of the students who got into places such as Yale, Stanford and Northwestern with the help of those now charged with fraud. Maybe they’ll just be allowed to flunk out, considering that the scam included falsified test scores and big charitable donations that don’t guarantee student success past acceptance.

It’s easy to see why and how it’s done. And hard-earned wealth does yield advantages. But students who cheat all those who did it the right way — and every taxpayer who chipped in to help — shouldn’t be allowed to skate.

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