News US university admissions scandal

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The bizarre or "laughable" part to me, is the idea that proficiency in sports - athletic ability - provides a side door into these universities. I mean, suppose the applicant had really been the star water polo player, or rower, that they pretended to be. Why should that be an "allowed" reason for their getting in? Or, put another way, why were the legitimate athletes granted acceptance? Maybe athletic excellence signals a "stick to it" mindset, kind of like getting to Eagle in scouts? I'm not sure I believe that.

And I get it, for "big" sports, many schools believe admitting top athletes into their programs pays off in alumni donations. It's true, but bizarre in my opinion.

What if this attitude carried on "in real life?" You go in for a job interview, and after reviewing your actual qualifications, you start talking about rowing on the weekends. Is that really a reason to be hired? What's next? Do you tell the interviewer you can bench press more than the guy in the waiting room?
 

StatGuy2000

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I'm glad my kids have no interest in my alma mater so they will never wonder if they only gained admission due to legacy status, although realistically rejection would be expected. They also won't have to try and compete against a student body that is now incredibly competitive; I was reading about some student-run clubs on campus that have single-digit admit rates. Yes, you apply to clubs now. Jeesh!

jason
If you don't mind my asking, what was your alma mater? And if not your alma mater, what colleges/universities have your children expressed interest in?

If you don't feel comfortable answering here, please feel free to PM me.
 

jasonRF

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I know! This is the systemic problematic belief I have been (over)talking about- that if you don't get your kid into the 'right' school, they are doomed for life.
Agreed - and our kids absorb this mindset from their friends (and the parents of their friends). And if I am honest, there have been a few times when I have noticed that I have started to fall into that trap myself and had to correct myself. It took awhile to convince my elder child that this is a myth. Once she finally found and visited a true "safety" school (accepts at least 70% of applicants) that had great academic programs, research opportunities, and campus life, then she finally believed. It also lowered her stress about high school, since she knew that she would have good options even if she doesn't get perfect grades or take all of the hardest classes. The younger child has observed all of this so will hopefully have an easier time of things.

Jason
 

StatGuy2000

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I've had a chance to read about the US university admissions scandal with some interest, mainly because of what it reveals about both the competitiveness of the actual schools themselves and the lengths to which some parents and students take to be admitted to specific "elite" schools.

From my perspective, Canadian universities operate somewhat differently, since in Canada, there really are no "elite" schools, but instead there are elite programs, since Canadian students generally are required to select what department and what program within each university they wish to apply in high school prior to being accepted (back in my days, I was required to select 3 universities, with one program each for each university, within my home province, followed by however many schools outside of my province I wished to apply to).

There are certain elite programs within specific universities that are highly competitive (for example, the Software Engineering program at the University of Waterloo, or the Engineering Science program at the University of Toronto, my alma mater).
 

StatGuy2000

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Yep- there are years-long waiting lists for *kindergarten*. Life has become a competitive sport.
Sounds to me that a sizable portion of American families are taking their cues from Japan -- and I'm speaking as someone who has roots in that country and am aware of the culture of academic competitiveness and the "examination hell" to try to enter the elite universities there.
 

Andy Resnick

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Ok, but I don't see how any of this relates to the side discussion about *real* (vs fraudulent) stratification. Do you think that because we see real stratification exists that we condone the fraud?
I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'stratification'. My point is that the underlying intent behind fraudulent undergraduate admissions arises from a broader social pathology regarding social status and privilege- things that have nothing to do with education.

Frankly I was sensing your personal reaction was due to your own job and school. Stratification exists in society whether we like it or not. But we don't need to measure ourselves in it to find happiness.
Yes, I admit that some of my reaction is driven by my personal experience teaching semester after semester of first-generation and underrepresented minority groups- students that I was not exposed to in my own undergraduate and graduate experience- and I wonder how many more cases we are likely to discover.
 

Andy Resnick

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Agreed - and our kids absorb this mindset from their friends (and the parents of their friends). And if I am honest, there have been a few times when I have noticed that I have started to fall into that trap myself and had to correct myself. It took awhile to convince my elder child that this is a myth. Once she finally found and visited a true "safety" school (accepts at least 70% of applicants) that had great academic programs, research opportunities, and campus life, then she finally believed. It also lowered her stress about high school, since she knew that she would have good options even if she doesn't get perfect grades or take all of the hardest classes. The younger child has observed all of this so will hopefully have an easier time of things.

Jason
I appreciate the fact that we all can have this discussion- it's uncomfortable, but hopefully some lurker is reading this and also feeling reassured.
 

StatGuy2000

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The bizarre or "laughable" part to me, is the idea that proficiency in sports - athletic ability - provides a side door into these universities. I mean, suppose the applicant had really been the star water polo player, or rower, that they pretended to be. Why should that be an "allowed" reason for their getting in? Or, put another way, why were the legitimate athletes granted acceptance? Maybe athletic excellence signals a "stick to it" mindset, kind of like getting to Eagle in scouts? I'm not sure I believe that.

And I get it, for "big" sports, many schools believe admitting top athletes into their programs pays off in alumni donations. It's true, but bizarre in my opinion.

What if this attitude carried on "in real life?" You go in for a job interview, and after reviewing your actual qualifications, you start talking about rowing on the weekends. Is that really a reason to be hired? What's next? Do you tell the interviewer you can bench press more than the guy in the waiting room?
But keep in mind that in American society (and to varying degrees in other societies as well), athletic ability is a signal of social status (often disguised as demonstrations of "leadership skills") and that social status opens doors in various areas of life, from academics to employment in various areas of business, politics, etc, especially in leadership positions.
 

Andy Resnick

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Sounds to me that a sizable portion of American families are taking their cues from Japan -- and I'm speaking as someone who has roots in that country and am aware of the culture of academic competitiveness and the "examination hell" to try to enter the elite universities there.
Ah yes- 'entrance exams'. Not just Japan, but China and India as well. I cannot imagine dealing with those.
 

StatGuy2000

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Ah yes- 'entrance exams'. Not just Japan, but China and India as well. I cannot imagine dealing with those.
Not just in those countries -- every country in Asia that I am aware of has some variation of an entrance exam requirement to be admitted into university. Some countries (including Japan) even require entrance exams to be admitted into secondary school (in Japan, compulsory education ends at the equivalent of American junior high school, although the overwhelming majority of students do complete secondary school).

My understanding is that even some European countries (I'm thinking of France as an example) require competitive entrance exams to be admitted into universities.
 

Vanadium 50

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One of the beneficiaries of the scandal, Olivia Jade Giannulli, videoed herself describing her academic intent: "I do want the experience of like game days, partying. I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

So, again, what's the big deal? If college is just four years of partying, why are we upset that people bribe their way in? It's no different than slipping the bouncer at Studio 54 some cash.

If the problem is that real colleges are evolving into diploma mills, so anyone with rich parents can buy themselves a credential saying they know things they don't, how exactly is this the fault of some B-list actresses?
 

StatGuy2000

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One of the beneficiaries of the scandal, Olivia Jade Giannulli, videoed herself describing her academic intent: "I do want the experience of like game days, partying. I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

So, again, what's the big deal? If college is just four years of partying, why are we upset that people bribe their way in? It's no different than slipping the bouncer at Studio 54 some cash.

If the problem is that real colleges are evolving into diploma mills, so anyone with rich parents can buy themselves a credential saying they know things they don't, how exactly is this the fault of some B-list actresses?
To answer your questions, college/university is not just 4 years of partying -- it functions as a gatekeeper to a wide range of careers. After all, how many times do we see job postings where the minimum requirement is a 4 year degree?

Second, there is a point made that someone who bribes their way in to college/university, or someone who is accepted to college/university solely due to being a legacy, is taking a spot in school that more deserving applicants have worked and struggled to get into.

I should also add that the issue isn't (solely) about Olivia Jade Giannulli (or even her parents, who were directly involved in the scandal -- any reporting to indicate that Olivia was aware of her parents' actions?). It's a broader issue about how higher education shouldn't be something that should be bought or sold fraudulently.
 
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Vanadium 50

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it functions as a gatekeeper to a wide range of careers
But how long will it function in this role? On another thread, it was pointed out (by me, as it happens) that a California community college is giving college credit for...wait for it....fractions.
 

russ_watters

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To answer your questions, college/university is not just 4 years of partying -- it functions as a gatekeeper to a wide range of careers. After all, how many times do we see job postings where the minimum requirement is a 4 year degree?
I'm not sure that's as true as you imply. A lot of jobs where they list a college degree don't actually require one to do the work. They list it because they can. And students who know it doesn't actually matter don't bother to learn skills that matter. The piece of paper is essentially meaningless to both the employer and the employee and both are fully aware of that. A meaningless piece of paper that you spent $80k for proves nothing more than that you chose to spend $80k on a piece of paper.

For a lot of so-called entry level jobs "requiring" degrees, there is an alternate path in: 4 years of progressive work experience.

When I was in college I worked as a temp, doing accounts payable work. They offered me a permanent job, because they saw I could do it (and the guy who was doing it flunked a drug test and they were in a jam...) and the fact that I had no degree didn't matter. But I wasn't after a meaningless piece of paper and mindless office job.
It's a broader issue about how higher education shouldn't be something that should be bought or sold fraudulently.
I don't think V50 disagrees with that, it's just that the fraud is the direct issue and what it tells us about the education is the broader issue.
 

russ_watters

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One of the beneficiaries of the scandal, Olivia Jade Giannulli, videoed herself describing her academic intent: "I do want the experience of like game days, partying. I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

So, again, what's the big deal? If college is just four years of partying, why are we upset that people bribe their way in? It's no different than slipping the bouncer at Studio 54 some cash.

If the problem is that real colleges are evolving into diploma mills, so anyone with rich parents can buy themselves a credential saying they know things they don't, how exactly is this the fault of some B-list actresses?
Agreed, this is the real dirty secret exposed by this scandal - though it is somewhat hidden by who the perpetrators are, and advocates of "college for all" won't want to look at it this way. It's easy to dismiss this by saying it's just celebrities who think this way and not indicative of a systemic problem, but the reality is that most people who go to college don't really need to. The vast majority of jobs do not require a college degree education, including many that list it as a qualification (because they can). So it doesn't matter what most people major in or if they get a quality education. Since it doesn't matter, they can focus on other things - more fun things.
 

russ_watters

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This says 40% of recent college graduates take, as their first job, a job that does not require a degree:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/25/why-your-first-job-out-of-college-really-really-matters.html

This one (older study, during the recession) says that only 27% of their jobs match their degree field:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/20/only-27-percent-of-college-grads-have-a-job-related-to-their-major/?utm_term=.49fb675b7da4

This tells me that roughly the other third get jobs that *say* they require a college degree but really don't require the education. Either way, it means only 27% of college graduates really need their college education.
 

StatGuy2000

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I'm not sure that's as true as you imply. A lot of jobs where they list a college degree don't actually require one to do the work. They list it because they can. And students who know it doesn't actually matter don't bother to learn skills that matter. The piece of paper is essentially meaningless to both the employer and the employee and both are fully aware of that. A meaningless piece of paper that you spent $80k for proves nothing more than that you chose to spend $80k on a piece of paper.

For a lot of so-called entry level jobs "requiring" degrees, there is an alternate path in: 4 years of progressive work experience.

When I was in college I worked as a temp, doing accounts payable work. They offered me a permanent job, because they saw I could do it (and the guy who was doing it flunked a drug test and they were in a jam...) and the fact that I had no degree didn't matter. But I wasn't after a meaningless piece of paper and mindless office job.

I don't disagree with you that many jobs listing a college degree as a requirement don't actually require it. When I referred to a college degree as a "gatekeeper", I meant that many (although by no means all) employers use a college degree as a symbol of prestige and as a tool to screen out potential applicants, regardless of whether the particular position requires skills gained from studying at college/university.

So in essence, not having a college/university degree becomes an obstacle to obtaining a range of jobs (irrespective of whether said jobs require college/university skills). That obstacle is not insurmountable, as you've pointed out with your own example, but it is still nonetheless an obstacle. After all, how easily can someone without a college/university degree can get that 4 years of progressive work experience?

I don't think V50 disagrees with that, it's just that the fraud is the direct issue and what it tells us about the education is the broader issue.
I concur with both those points above.
 

StatGuy2000

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This says 40% of recent college graduates take, as their first job, a job that does not require a degree:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/25/why-your-first-job-out-of-college-really-really-matters.html

This one (older study, during the recession) says that only 27% of their jobs match their degree field:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/20/only-27-percent-of-college-grads-have-a-job-related-to-their-major/?utm_term=.49fb675b7da4

This tells me that roughly the other third get jobs that *say* they require a college degree but really don't require the education. Either way, it means only 27% of college graduates really need their college education.
First, it is worth pointing out what is meant by "matching their degree field" as outlined in the Washington Post article. For example, are physics graduates applying their quantitative skills in areas like finance or firms specializing in data science working in an area that "match their degree field"? My impression based on the article is that these graduates would be counted as "no", even though it is perfectly clear that these positions in finance or data science require a college/university education of some sort.

There are many other examples where a particular position will require skills gained from a college/university education, but which is not tied to a specific degree field. So your conclusion that only 27% of college graduates needed their education (or whatever the estimate that is today -- remember, this study was taken during the middle of one of the worst economic downturns in US history since the Great Depression) isn't necessarily accurate or warranted.

Second, regarding the first link, it may be worth asking why 40% of recent college/university graduates take as their first job a position not requiring a degree. In part this is due to a failure among many students to adequately plan on what to do post-degree (which I've talked about at length in previous posts), but this could also speak of a need for improvement among colleges and universities to provide services to make such planning more readily available and accessible.
 

StatGuy2000

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The vast majority of jobs do not require a college degree education, including many that list it as a qualification (because they can). So it doesn't matter what most people major in or if they get a quality education. Since it doesn't matter, they can focus on other things - more fun things.
But isn't it the case that a large percentage of jobs are dead-end jobs with no path toward advancement? I can think of a number of examples like street cleaners, janitors, part-time retail clerks. Presumably people go to college/university so that they can seek other areas of employment, at least on a long term basis. And there are many jobs which do require a college degree -- doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc.
 
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Dr Transport

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Since this thread is going on forever, I'll add my $0.02 and hope that i have not repeated other thoughts.

Blind admissions: let all applications be completely sterilized of names and high schools before the final admissions committees look at them. This could possibly eliminate bias /pressure due to donors.

This one is a financial nightmare: decline any donations from anyone if they have a family member applying to the school and only accept it when the family member is graduated.

Athletic scholarships: give them after they make the team and only after they make the team, this ensures that the student actually has the skills to do the sport.

I'm an idealist, these would never be implemented, but they might work if they did. Of course, I think that college tuition is way too high and that is due to govt requirements for funding. Eliminate govt aid at the undergrad level and I think you'd see tuition rates drop.
 

symbolipoint

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But how long will it function in this role? On another thread, it was pointed out (by me, as it happens) that a California community college is giving college credit for...wait for it....fractions.
Vanadium 50,
I took a look through this topic or thread but did not find your reference to college giving credit for fractions. Maybe done in another topic? Either way, if a college gives credit for "fractions", then this must be part of a Basic Math or Basic Arithmetic course at some community college, and such level of course, will not transfer as University credit, and should not be included in any kind of credentialing or licensing. It is also, NOT college-level credit. What that one school thinks it is doing, difficult to imagine or understand.
 

Vanadium 50

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I think the class was called "pre-Algebra", but they most certainly did grant credit for it towards their own (AA) degrees. If no other college would accept those credits, more power to them.
 

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