Community Columns

Commentary | Mo High student on college admissions scandal: “This revolts me”

Rana Banankhah

For years, many Americans have speculated that our university system has favored the wealthy and powerful over the common person. Just recently, these speculations have proven true, as authorities have uncovered a massive scandal where children of wealthy and successful parents are being accepted into various prestigious universities through tactical cheating.

The scheme, created by former college counselor William Singer, revolved around several résumé-boosting lies, which “guaranteed families to get in,” he said. Parents paid other students to take exams for their children, had their children falsely diagnosed with learning disabilities, and fabricated sports records all in an effort to boost their child’s chance of being admitted. The plot involved bribery, cheating and lying, with parents well-informed about the illegality. Singer even helped them rehearse the lies they would tell others to cover their tracks. As soon as this scandal was revealed to the public, an uproar of outrage commenced.

As a high school student, this situation revolts me.

I, and many of my peers, must put in hard work, dedication and commitment to be accepted into prestigious universities. Millions of students spend their entire high school careers working toward the colleges of their dreams. Many of us sacrifice sleep, relaxation, weekends and even vacations in exchange for studying and boosting our résumés. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, the average AP student spends about 17 hours a week studying and doing homework.

But average doesn’t get you into the Ivy League. Personally, I spend about five hours a night studying and completing homework. This number doesn’t begin to include the hours students spend on countless extracurricular activities necessary to appeal to colleges.

Meanwhile, students like Olivia Jade Giannulli, the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, go through high school without devoting significant time to academics and still are accepted into reputable universities. In fact, Giannulli even expressed her disinterest in school in a video, saying, “But I do want the experience of like game days, partying…I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

The fact that people like her are accepted into these universities, while bumping other deserving students out, is appalling. For every single student accepted into a university for fraudulent reasons, another hardworking, devoted student is denied. We can’t tolerate this unfairness, cheating and privilege in our university system any longer.

This situation reveals a fundamental truth about not only our college system, but our entire education system. Unfortunately, we live in a society which naturally favors the wealthy over the poor, one that judges a person’s capabilities by their last name or bank account.

A study by researchers at the College Board found that GPAs for students who attend private schools increased from 3.25 to 3.51 from 1998 to 2016, more than double the increase for that of average high schools. However, their average SAT scores actually dropped. Many speculate this is because of grade inflation. But even if the increase is validated, there still is a discrepancy in the quality of education between wealthy schools and the average high school.

Another study by the Center for Law and Social Policy revealed that only 41 percent of high schools in poverty-stricken areas offer a calculus course — drastically lower than 90 percent of schools offering this same course in wealthier districts.

With publicity of this scandal, authorities will be motivated to investigate inequalities of our education system. Students must demand that there be absolutely no discrimination in education quality. As a country stressing justice and equality, we must find a way to combat this issue of extreme privilege for the wealthy.

Rana Banankhah is a freshman at Modesto High School. She wrote this commentary for The Modesto Bee.