It’s Not About Fairness

As always, a wonderful take on the college admissions bribery scandal by Matt Levine:

Here is one thing that U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the charges:

“There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, and I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.”

Level playing field! Here is another thing he said less than a minute later:

“We’re not talking about donating a building so that a school’s more likely to take your son or your daughter. We’re talking about deception and fraud.”

There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, except for the extremely well-known one where you donate a building in exchange for getting your kid in! “Lol just donate a building like a real rich person,” the U.S. Attorney almost said.

. . . . .

It is not about fairness; it is about theft. Selective colleges have admissions spots that they want to award in particular ways. They want to award some based on academic factors; they want to award others based on athletic skill; they want to award others in exchange for cash, but—and this is crucial—really a whole lot of cash. Buildings are not cheap.

You Have to Pay the Right Person

Artificial Scarcity, College Edition

Like so many other stories about inequality, this one seems to be touching a nerve.

But the NYT Editorial Board says it best:

Whether students are admitted because their parents paid for a boathouse, or because their parents bribed the sailing coach, it is still the case that merit alone is not deciding the issue.

Turns Out There’s a Proper Way to Buy Your Kid a College Slot

And it’s more than the hypocrisy of pretend merit. It’s also the hypocrisy of artificial scarcity. Between housing prices and elite college admissions, we seem intent on preserving our own experience, and screw the newcomers. Don’t build more housing because the character of my own house or neighborhood might change. Don’t expand educational opportunities because the character (read: status) of my university might change.

There is no reason why elite universities cannot educate more people. The nation’s largest public universities enroll over 50,000 students each. Stanford has an undergraduate enrollment of around 7,000. It’s not hard to imagine why.