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|13 March, 2019

College-bribe scandal is manna for progressives

A college-bribe scandal, and the entitlement on show by the parents involved, exposes one more way U.S. higher education was tilted toward the 1%

Image used for illustrative purpose. Shot of a young woman studying in a college library.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Shot of a young woman studying in a college library.

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NEW YORK  - The children of rich parents have always had a leg up at elite U.S. universities. A college-bribe scandal, and the entitlement on show by the parents involved, exposes one more way U.S. higher education was tilted toward the 1 percent.

The allegations are jaw-dropping. Federal prosecutors describe a conspiracy involving some 50 defendants including TPG Growth Managing Partner Bill McGlashan, Willkie Farr & Gallagher Co-chair Gordon Caplan and actor Felicity Huffman, who allegedly bribed their way through the gruesome college-application process to get their children into elite institutions like Yale.

The scam as laid out on Tuesday by the Justice Department worked in several ways, including a setup in which other people took or corrected entrance exams on behalf of the test takers, and a ring of athletic coaches at schools like Stanford and the University of Texas willing to take cash in return for helping candidates get accepted. The scheme extended to doctored photos presenting applicants as the athletes they were not.

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McGlashan, for instance, allegedly agreed to pay $250,000 in total for both types of service on behalf of his son, for admission to the University of Southern California. The transcripts of McGlashan's conversations with a cooperating witness are a devastating read, though his son was never clued in on the scam.

The U.S. education system already favors those with big pocketbooks, in legal ways. Parents who can afford to send their children to test-prep classes give them an advantage over students who have to go in cold. Sizable charitable donations are a common way to grease the wheels for admissions, though the linkage isn't supposed to be explicit. For the richest of all, giving enough money for new buildings and the like can help guarantee admissions for generations.

Tuesday's allegations point to illegal behavior. But they are still manna for progressives seeking to rebalance the entire system. Students who can’t rely on family money may miss out. But even if they get into a top school, they pay in other ways. Securitized educational loans outstanding in the United States tripled from 2006 through 2018 to almost $1.6 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The ideas touted by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two senators and presidential candidates who are pushing for free college tuition, may now get a more sympathetic hearing.

CONTEXT NEWS

- Nearly 50 people, including TPG Growth Managing Partner William McGlashan, former Pimco Chief Executive Douglas Hodge and actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged on March 12 by the U.S. Department of Justice in what it says was a $25 million scam to help wealthy Americans get their children into elite universities.

- The scheme involved alleged payments for cheating on college entrance exams, bribes paid to coaches of college athletic teams and doctored photos for admission to institutions including Yale, Stanford and the University of Texas.

(Editing by Richard Beales and Martin Langfield)

© Reuters News 2019

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