Questions About the College Admission Scandal

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By Eve Mykytyn

I got into college the old fashioned way: by letting my father’s celebrity speak for itself.— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) March 12, 2019 (son of Richard Dreyfus.)

The recent college admission scandal, described in more detail below, was the product of a fraud and bribery conspiracy that included parents, a college admissions advisor and his employees, test administrators, college athletic coaches and probably students and education psychologists as well. 

There have been a number of articles that attempt to explain what motivated these crimes. The articles make two main points that I don’t find convincing.

The first is that wealthy students already have an advantage in college admissions. They are more likely to be legacies (a parent went to the school), have resources for academic and test taking tutors, are more likely to play less popular college sports such as crew or water polo and are likely to come from a highly ranked high school. This is a valid critique of the present admissions system, it seems unfair to the children of the less wealthy, but it hardly explains how criminal bribery and fraud are a mere extension of the advantages of the already advantaged wealthy (assuming, of course that that is not how the wealth was acquired). It seems to me that as long as colleges are looking at a student’s achievements and not her potential, admissions are unlikely to undergo more than a cosmetic change.

The second point made is that college admission standards were originally set either directly or indirectly as quotas to limit the number of Jews. This is true even though in all such schools despite quotas, the number of Jews far exceeded their percentage of the population. See and See

This argument is presented in one of three ways 1.) colleges adopted the SATs because Jews were thought to perform less well on IQ- type tests. The SAT was originally developed by a eugenicist, Brigham, who claimed that similar army mental tests “had proven beyond any scientific doubt that, like the American Negroes, the Italians and Jews were genetically ineducable.”  It turned out that the IQ test didn’t work very well to filter out Jewish students  2.) By admitting a large number of legacies from before there were many Jews in the college, fewer Jews were admitted. Princeton and Dartmouth adopted such policies in 1922 and 1919 respectively, admitting “all properly qualified sons of [that college’s] alumni and [that college’s]college officers.” The then chairman of Princeton’s Board of Admissions acknowledged that he had wanted to solve the school’s “Jewish problem.” or, lastly, 3) In the  mid-1920s when the Jewish quota was in place, Harvard switched to ‘holistic’ admissions to limit the influence of test scores and grades in admissions. This Jewish quota was defended by Harvard President, Abbott Lowell, as an attempt to fight anti Semitism, he warned that a predominantly Jewish student body might inflame racial tensions against Jews.

Obnoxious as quotas might have been, I do not understand the relevance of quotas for Jews to the present day scandal. Jewish quotas have not existed since the 1960s, and Jews are now far overrepresented in the Ivy League (reportedly ranging from 40 to 13% depending on the school). Is this simply another example of a group that seeks to hide its privilege by claiming victimhood?

Why are about a third of the conspirators in the present scandal Jewish? Do they and the rest of the conspirators love their kids more than others do, so much that they are willing to risk a felony conviction and likely prison? Or do they think that the vagaries of the admissions process entitles them to commit crimes? Is this acceptable if they can get away with it? Do they not trust their children to get into an appropriate college on their own? Is college a family and not an individual experience, so that the parent can brag of the child’s achievement?  The educator Dennis Prager remarked that if he meets a person that “tells me what college their child goes to, I assume the individual is a Jew.”

Note: This is a summary of the two-part service offered by William Singer of The Edge College & Career Network )(the “Key”)

In Part 1, the student’s standardized test scores (the SATs or the ACTs, either one the “Test”) were raised. First, the student had to get a disability accommodation giving the student double the normal Test taking time. This service, unrelated to the Key, cost parents approximately $2800-3000 to for an educational psychologist to diagnose a previously undiscovered learning disability. The student then arranged to take the Test in one of two locations in Los Angeles, if the students did not live nearby, the excuse was that the student combined the Test with a tour of colleges. The administrators for these test centers  Niki Williams and Igor Dvorskiy were paid as much as 10,000 per test to overlook the cheating. 

After the student completed the Test, Mark Riddell, an adult employee of Key, using his own skills, corrected a student’s answers and test scores -providing Test scores in the 96-99 percentile. Parents paid Key $15,000-75,000 for cheating on the Test.

In Part 2, Key provided a winning application. This was usually done by feigning an athletic skill that in return for a bribe, the college coach in the respective sport would request that the student be admitted as an athletic recruit.  The price of rigging an application in this manner ranged from $75,000 to a few million dollars. Mr. Singer frequently coached families to  misrepresent their race as well and would tell them that not doing so could put their child at a “competitive disadvantage.”

Payments from the parents to Key were made through the  Key Charitable Foundation, a charity whose stated purpose was to provide support to underprivileged students. These payments were deducted from the parents’ taxes  as charitable contributions, cutting the cost to parents and adding tax fraud to the list of crimes.)