Years ago, I interviewed a brilliant high school student who asked me a simple question: Why should I go to Princeton when a third of the student body are athletes?
I admitted that he had a point: a third of my class at Princeton was not very bright because of preferential policies for one reason or another. And it was a damn shame. What I did not realize was that I was part of the problem, looking for “intangibles” as part of the admissions process.
A diploma from a prestigious school is valuable, both economically and socially. The admissions process is highly subjective and not transparent. There are carve-outs for athletes, minorities, legacies, and those deemed more desirable for other, non-objective reasons. These carve-outs can constitute as much as 50 to 70 percent of an entering class.
There is certainty that there will be corruption. There has been corruption since the first donation to Ug’s Cave-Academy. To me, the only surprising feature about this latest “scandal” is that the schools themselves were bypassed and did not directly reap the winnings. Oh, the horror!
The best we can and should do is to point out that without transparent and clear criteria, corruption is a certainty.
Edit: There are schools that admit every candidate above a certain cutoff point, basically defined by those likely to be able to do the work. Included in this category are some state schools. That would be much better — but for the Ivy League to do the same, they would need to make the school much more academically difficult than it is.