The Meaning of Privilege in 2019 College Admissions Scandal

December 05, 2019 by Sukran Choi


Ever since the controversial story surrounding the children of affluent parents scamming their way into college admissions came out, it has been a non-stop conversational topic for students rightfully enrolled in universities. Celebrities like Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin emerged in the headlines of every news outlet, as the faces of reprehensible parents who had been caught in massive legal issues.

Although it is no surprise that there has been a history of bribery or ‘generous’ donation towards higher-tier, Ivy League universities, it is a first for the public to be exposed to a complete list of 50 parents who have rigged the system to sneak their children into reputable schools. This meant that those who are not granted the same resources received an insight into how these wealthy parents managed to bend the rules for themselves. Their tactics include elaborate schemes, varying from falsifying students’ SAT or ACT scores to bribing coaches to recruit non-athlete students.

However, most schemes for this particular case can be traced back to a guy named William Rick Singer. Singer started the Key Worldwide Foundation, which disguised illegal transactions as a non-profit organization aiding disadvantaged children to access education in competitive schools. What is ironic is that every student involved in receiving help from this organization had extremely rich parents who paid enormous amounts to Singer to increase their chances of getting into elite universities. Singer received over $25 million over a period of 7 years, acting as a middleman between the parents and college employees in the administration. What’s more is that the Key Worldwide Foundation claims to be a non-profit, public charity so that Singer could evade taxes that would be imposed on a private charity.

On March 2019, Singer was found guilty of obstruction of justice and money laundering, with the possibility of facing up to 65 years in prison. The parents that attempted to buy their children’s way into colleges have been battling their sentences, with some who have pleaded guilty and others who haven’t to avoid ramifications for their actions. This further signifies the wealthy family’s entitled attitude that essentially drove them into believing that they are an exception to certain rules in society. The very idea of struggling yet still enduring the insufferable process of college applications does not register in their minds, let alone doing it without receiving innumerable help.

But what does this mean for students at Yonsei University, which has no affiliations with American universities’ admission scandal? A similar instance of corrupt college admissions was recently exposed when Cho Kuk, South Korea’s jurist was accused of being implicated in his daughter’s false admission to medical school. Although the daughter failed her examinations twice to get into medical school at Busan National University, she managed to receive a scholarship for 6 semesters, which summed up to 12 million Won. The ludicrousness behind awarding scholarships to someone who is not only undeserving, but also immensely privileged with excess wealth destroys the sole purpose of scholarships.

Not only do these scandals reveal the elite parents’ lack of thought for implications regarding their privilege, but they also exhibit the inadequate management that runs throughout prestigious universities. Instead of basing our perception of these colleges based merely on their status, we must take into account the insufficient measures that have been taken by the administration, who in this case only focused on their self-interests (their motivations stemming from cupidity) instead of well-deserving students who could have thrived from advancing their education.

What leaves us from examining these cases, especially from the responses of the public, is the issue of unfairness or inequality in opportunities that some students were handed that facilitated their acceptance to colleges. The students’ pain and rage in response to these scandals still remain after the initial shock of these revelations, suggesting that the 2019 college admission scandals represent a larger issue of disparity in our society.

The UIC Scribe was founded in 2006 as the official student-run newsmagazine of Underwood International College. It celebrates diversity of thinking, excellence in writing, and the freedom of self-expression.