News US university admissions scandal

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jtbell

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Here's what pressure to get students into elite universities can lead to: cheating on SAT and ACT exams and even bribing university officials:

Wealthy parents, actresses, coaches, among those charged in massive college cheating admission scandal, federal prosecutors say (CNN.com)

Example:
Giannulli and Loughlin allegedly agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team, even though they did not participate in crew, the complaint said.
 

fresh_42

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May I propose a provocative anti-thesis?

Places to study at ivory league universities in the United States are no public good, they are a completely private good. As such the mechanisms of capital markets should rule unregulated, i.e. balanced by demand and offer. And this was exactly what took place. It is a natural consequence of general market laws and as such should not be punished at all.

To complain about it is in my non American eyes not honest. One could question the system as a whole, but once committed, why shouldn't places be freely traded? I have difficulties to draw the line between market oriented access on one hand and regulations on the other. Isn't any justification doomed to be contradictory?
 

cobalt124

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And named and shamed.
 

Drakkith

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May I propose a provocative anti-thesis?

Places to study at ivory league universities in the United States are no public good, they are a completely private good. As such the mechanisms of capital markets should rule unregulated, i.e. balanced by demand and offer. And this was exactly what took place. It is a natural consequence of general market laws and as such should not be punished at all.

To complain about it is in my non American eyes not honest. One could question the system as a whole, but once committed, why shouldn't places be freely traded? I have difficulties to draw the line between market oriented access on one hand and regulations on the other. Isn't any justification doomed to be contradictory?
We choose to treat education a little differently than we do other businesses. But even businesses have plenty of rules to follow that would probably be contradictory if you take a very simple view of what the U.S. economy is like.

Edit: Plus, like others said below, it's not exactly part of the free market if the universities aren't getting anything out of it.
 
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BillTre

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Places to study at ivory league universities in the United States are no public good, they are a completely private good. As such the mechanisms of capital markets should rule unregulated, i.e. balanced by demand and offer. And this was exactly what took place. It is a natural consequence of general market laws and as such should not be punished at all.
I have seen these thoughts expressed elsewhere, however, the argument was then made that the actual universities were cut out of the deal by the guy who organized this system. He got the money not the university!
The more market based approached would have been for those wanting their kin to get in would have been to give a university a building or large contribution of some kind. Their children will then get deferential treatment.
That is the accepted American way of doing this kind of thing. That happens and is legal.
 
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I saw one talking head today point out that rich people have always bribed universities to take their kids by endowing huge amounts of money to the campuses. They get a building named after them and their kids get pretty much automatic admission. All legal, of course. EDIT: I see BillTre beat me to it.

The coaches who were bribed directly, and the testing folks who were bribed directly, are a somewhat different story. The universities involved in the current scandal seem to be victims. The feds got involved, not because the universities were cheated but because of money laundering, and possibly tax fraud.
 
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russ_watters

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May I propose a provocative anti-thesis?

Places to study at ivory league universities in the United States are no public good, they are a completely private good. As such the mechanisms of capital markets should rule unregulated, i.e. balanced by demand and offer. And this was exactly what took place. It is a natural consequence of general market laws and as such should not be punished at all.

To complain about it is in my non American eyes not honest. One could question the system as a whole, but once committed, why shouldn't places be freely traded? I have difficulties to draw the line between market oriented access on one hand and regulations on the other. Isn't any justification doomed to be contradictory?
But that's not "exactly what took place": what took place was bribery and fraud. If a true pay-to-play system were enacted, it would look more like an auction.
 

Vanadium 50

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What's the big deal? If college were a rigorous academic experience, paying someone to forge some SAT scores wouldn't matter. Scores forged, student gets in when he/she wouldn't. Student flunks out. If college were a rigorous academic experience. If.
 
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Klystron

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The erstwhile beneficiaries of the bribes are quoted in media as having no intention of attending classes or achieving academic goals; but only mentioned attending a few sporting events and 'party nights'. Even the most witless moronic aristo pays some lip service to participating in the university and joining a sorority to develop social skills. Why bother when all is provided with no effort.

I now understand comments in other threads where managers avoid hiring 'graduates' from otherwise prestigious universities in favor of people who actually demonstrate hard work and commitment to education.
 

ZapperZ

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May I propose a provocative anti-thesis?

Places to study at ivory league universities in the United States are no public good, they are a completely private good. As such the mechanisms of capital markets should rule unregulated, i.e. balanced by demand and offer. And this was exactly what took place. It is a natural consequence of general market laws and as such should not be punished at all.

To complain about it is in my non American eyes not honest. One could question the system as a whole, but once committed, why shouldn't places be freely traded? I have difficulties to draw the line between market oriented access on one hand and regulations on the other. Isn't any justification doomed to be contradictory?
Not the same thing. Free market is still regulated, i.e. a company can't publish fake quarterly earnings, for example, to affect their valuation.

That is what is happening here. Students are being accepted under false pretense. That is like hiring someone who said that he/she has a physics degree, but he/she actually does not.

Zz.
 

Andy Resnick

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One's reaction to this scandal is just as telling as the scandal itself. Nobody has a problem with pointing out that cheating, an intentional subversion of established rules and regulations, is something that should be punished.

What is more insightful is the unspoken agreement by those same outraged commenters that the rationale for cheating is understandable. That flows from a belief that a degree from highly selective colleges is necessary and sufficient to have a successful career. That implies agreement with the idea that my students (and *you* who also did not attend one of those schools) are receiving a 'less than' education. That's not just unfair to me- an instructor, that's unfair to you and to my students.

In fact, belief in the magical power of 'success by association' is false.
 
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I see nothing exceptional about this. College admissions have been manipulated by many, including the government with its Affirmative Action mickey mouse, so what is the difference? Getting into Harvard, MIT, or Berkeley is not a right to anyone, nor is it necessarily a particularly great advantage. For most students, they can learn just as much at State U, as they can at Harvard. So, what's the big deal?
 
So, what's the big deal?
Academic fraud is not a big deal to you? It wasn't just simple bribery. They falsified test scores and received sports scholarships they never played. You don't think an employer has a bias when comparing a resume with Harvard on it vs Idaho State? The connections afforded to Ivy league schools pales in comparison to the typical state university. Learning is just one part of the college game.
 

ZapperZ

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I see nothing exceptional about this. College admissions have been manipulated by many, including the government with its Affirmative Action mickey mouse, so what is the difference? Getting into Harvard, MIT, or Berkeley is not a right to anyone, nor is it necessarily a particularly great advantage. For most students, they can learn just as much at State U, as they can at Harvard. So, what's the big deal?
Again, there is a difference. One KNOWS that a student may be admitted with a lower academic record, and that the admission is due to other external factors (poverty, athletic prowess, parental heritage, etc...). Nothing was manipulated to make the student more "desirable". A school can decide that it wants to admit any student with a blue streak hair when the moon is full if it wants to. That is not in dispute here.

Instead, if the student PRETENDED that he/she had a blue streak hair, and it wasn't even during a full moon, and that record was verified by another party, THAT is what is relevant here.

Zz.
 
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You don't think an employer has a bias when comparing a resume with Harvard on it vs Idaho State? The connections afforded to Ivy league schools pales in comparison to the typical state university. Learning is just one part of the college game.
I think that society as a whole, and certainly employers are included here, have attached far too much significance to particular schools. significance that simply is not justified. Students do not learn from a schools reputation, nor from its football team. They learn from their own time with the books, with pencil and paper, struggling to work the problems. That can be done just as well a the local junior college as it can at MIT. It is time that we as a society wake up to this foolishness, and quite putting Big Name U on a pedestal while denigrating less prominent schools.

It is 50 years since I finished a PhD at a well known school, University of Texas at Austin. In that time, I've rubbed shoulders with graduates of schools from every level. The graduates of big name schools have never once stood out as exceptional. It is the students who worked hard, who studied, who asked themselves the hard questions and then demanded that they be able to answer those questiosn that shine in later life. I cannot think of a single instance when that has been a graduate of a big name school in my experience.
 

ZapperZ

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I think that society as a whole, and certainly employers are included here, have attached far too much significance to particular schools. significance that simply is not justified. Students do not learn from a schools reputation, nor from its football team. They learn from their own time with the books, with pencil and paper, struggling to work the problems. That can be done just as well a the local junior college as it can at MIT. It is time that we as a society wake up to this foolishness, and quite putting Big Name U on a pedestal while denigrating less prominent schools.

It is 50 years since I finished a PhD at a well known school, University of Texas at Austin. In that time, I've rubbed shoulders with graduates of schools from every level. The graduates of big name schools have never once stood out as exceptional. It is the students who worked hard, who studied, who asked themselves the hard questions and then demanded that they be able to answer those questiosn that shine in later life. I cannot think of a single instance when that has been a graduate of a big name school in my experience.
But this is a separate topic, isn't it? I have zero issues with what you are describing. But what is being talked about here is that several "agent", including parents, testing services, coaches, etc.. all conspired to make a student more eligible for admission to certain schools, even when they are not really have such qualifications.

Zz.
 
I agree with @ZapperZ that these are two different discussions. Furthermore I find it completely laughable to think the information science program I went through at my average state "mid major" university was on par with say MIT or Cal Tech. Laughable.
 

russ_watters

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What is more insightful is the unspoken agreement by those same outraged commenters that the rationale for cheating is understandable.
So is the rationale for most crimes. Please don't misconstrue that as condoning the crime.
That flows from a belief that a degree from highly selective colleges is necessary and sufficient to have a successful career.
No, just "helpful" is enough.
That implies agreement with the idea that my students (and *you* who also did not attend one of those schools) are receiving a 'less than' education. That's not just unfair to me- an instructor, that's unfair to you and to my students.

In fact, belief in the magical power of 'success by association' is false.
It is eye-poppongly self evident that that's not true. Or, to eliminate the double negative: it is demonstrably factual that "success by association" is a real thing. It's not a guarantee, but it matters a whole lot, particularly on the elite end; If you want to maximize your odds of winning a Nobel prize or appointment to the US Supreme Court, the school of choice is the same.

For the celebrities though, improving odds of success was not the point (most were not trying to "succeed"). The goal was nothing more than bragging rights.
 
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russ_watters

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...I find it completely laughable to think the information science program I went through at my average state "mid major" university was on par with say MIT or Cal Tech. Laughable.
There are two often but not always related aspects to that: quality of the education is one, reputation on your resume is the other. And while they often go together, they don't always:

Penn State, as many state schools do, has an extensive satellite system, and some campuses confers degrees. Employers may not know where you got the degree. But people who have the option prefer the main campus. Why? Better students + better teachers + better facilities = a better education.
 

jasonRF

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What's the big deal? If college were a rigorous academic experience, paying someone to forge some SAT scores wouldn't matter. Scores forged, student gets in when he/she wouldn't. Student flunks out.
Only somewhat true. At the super selective universities, the majority of the applicants that would succeed at the school are still rejected, simply because there are so many more qualified applicants than there are spots. Consider for example, public schools like Georgia Tech or UVA, where it is much easier for in-state students to gain admission than it is for out-of-state students. Clearly, a 1450 SAT is not required in order to do the work at UVA since most of the in-state admits are below that, but if you are from out-of-state you are highly unlikely to gain admission if your SAT is any lower. I suspect many private schools are similar to the out-of-state UVA case; the typical test scores of admitted students is driven by the size and quality of the applicant pool, not by what is actually required to do the work.

Then of course there is the point about students who may have been rejected because a cheater took their spot. I don't know how real this is for the case where there were 6 cheaters in the incoming class at USC; I doubt they manage the number of offers they extend to that precision, but I could easily be wrong.

Jason
 
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Andy Resnick

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Or, to eliminate the double negative: it is demonstrably factual that "success by association" is a real thing. It's not a guarantee, but it matters a whole lot, particularly on the elite end; If you want to maximize your odds of winning a Nobel prize or appointment to the US Supreme Court, the school of choice is the same.

For the celebrities though, improving odds of success was not the point (most were not trying to "succeed"). The goal was nothing more than bragging rights.
I am unaware of any correlation between any Novel Prize recipient and their undergraduate institution; likewise for Supreme Court Justices, CEOs of large corporations, etc. What is your data?

Don't you understand that by defining 'success' as a binary option: either a Nobel Prize or failure, either the Supreme Court or failure, you are only guaranteeing your own misery? Do you consider your life a failure?
 
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Andy Resnick

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IFurthermore I find it completely laughable to think the information science program I went through at my average state "mid major" university was on par with say MIT or Cal Tech. Laughable.
Why? I'm asking in a serious way. In what specific ways as your education second-rate? I am not blind to reality, but if your instructors used the same textbooks, if you went through the same course content, if you were held to the same standards, then why would you denigrate your program? What does that say about you?
 
I am not blind to reality, but if your instructors used the same textbooks, if you went through the same course content, if you were held to the same standards, then why would you denigrate your program?
Because that is not the reality. Instructors don't use the same textbooks, don't instruct the same way, don't have same level of expertise, students aren't held to the same standards, don't feel the same pressure., don't have the same resources, don't have the same circles and connections. I don't have a masters but I have heard and assume it's an even greater difference in grad school.

It's also a probability game. Who has a better probability to at least accidentally "make it"? Someone who goes to MIT or someone who goes to Idaho State (maybe a fine school, sorry for picking on them). The world watches and revolves around areas like MIT. No one is watching Idaho State.
 
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Andy Resnick

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Because that is not the reality. Instructors don't use the same textbooks, don't instruct the same way, don't have same level of expertise, students aren't held to the same standards, don't feel the same pressure., don't have the same resources, don't have the same circles and connections.
That may have been true for you, but it is not for me- I am using the same standard textbooks for my Intro Physics (Halliday, Resnick and Walker) and Quantum (Shankar) classes this semester. I expect my students to master the material as well as any other undergrad student. It is true that I don't instruct my intro physics class the same way- we don't have grad students leading recitation sections, I do all of the lecturing- and for some, the full-time tenured faculty also runs the associated labs. My students have at least the same resources: not just overall 'student health services' and financial assistance, there is tutoring, study areas, student groups activities, office hours, etc. They do indeed feel a lot of pressure: often, they are the first in the family to attend college, so they have a *lot* of pressure to succeed (in addition to their jobs needed to support their families).

Let's not confuse undergraduate and graduate school.
 

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