The college admission bribery scandal that’s rocking several of the nation’s top schools and resulted in dozens of people being arrested by the FBI is putting a spotlight on the lack of opportunities for Black students in higher education.
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors announced that between 2011 and 2018 several parents, including some celebrities, allegedly participated in a widespread bribery scheme. At the center of the conspiracy is college admissions counselor William Rick Singer, who received over $25 million to get students in some of the nation’s top colleges.
Critics continue to wage a war on affirmative action as a tool to bring more diversity to Ivy League schools. However, the recent scheme outlines just how uneven the playing field actually is.
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Senior Counsel Rachel Kleinman said in one report that affirmative action creates “this fear of white people that their privilege is being taken away from them and given to somebody else who they see as less deserving.”
The case involves parents paying standardized test proctors to cheat, creating photoshopped pictures of non-athletic students on sports teams and even faking disabilities, and it is the largest case of its kind to be prosecuted by the Justice Department.
“This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud,” stated Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” the case shines a light on how elite, wealthy and white families are scamming their way into colleges by any means while students of color continue to face struggles when it comes to admission to elite colleges. Numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that only 9 percent of the freshmen at Ivy League schools are Black. The number has remained unchanged over the past several decades.
“They believe in inherited privileges,” said Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, president and CEO of the Quality Education for Minorities Network in one report. “The worst aspect of these alleged crimes is that their mediocre children will grow up believing they are entitled to unearned rewards and that it’s okay to deny opportunities to others with less money. These children can grow up to be social parasites with no regard for earned achievement, only a false sense of entitlement that motivates them to manipulate systems and prey on those with less money to get ahead.”
President of the American Council of Education Ted Mitchell said the admissions process for elite colleges is now distorted and the hard-working students with few resources are the ones suffering.
“If these allegations are true, they violate the essential premise of a fair and transparent college admissions process,” he said. “This alleged behavior is antithetical to the core values of our institutions, defrauds students and families, and has absolutely no place in American higher education.”
Meanwhile, focus has also shifted toward the jailing of a number of Black women who have lied over the years to simply get their children into better public schools. Many are questioning if the white parents involved in the college admissions scheme will receive the same treatment.
One of the most recent cases involves Kelley Williams-Bolar, a Black mother of two in Akon, Ohio, who lied about her home address to get her children into a better school. Williams-Bolar was arrested and charged with a felony in 2011. The school hired a private investigator and found out she didn’t live in the district.
“I felt that the sentence was draconian and really, the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, it’s such a microcosm of everything that is wrong with America when it comes to access to educational quality, when it comes to economic inequality and when it comes to inequality in the criminal justice system,” Dr. Boyce Watkins said in one published interview.
This month, Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail, two years probation and 80 hours of community service.