When It Comes To The Recent College Admissions Scandal, It Is Not About The Money
This post is adapted from a LinkedIn comment I made earlier this morning.
Just like this article, Does It Matter Where You Go To College? Some Context For The Admissions Scandal, a lot of journalists are missing the main point behind this college admissions scandal.
It's not about the money spent to get their kids into school.
It's not about the money that their children will earn after getting through school.
It is not, and will never be about the money.
It is about legitimacy, or to be more specific, maintaining the appearance of legitimacy to your peers in the social class you reside in, and in our country as a whole. By attending an elite school, you get to leverage the status of your school beyond just a simple job search, but ensuring access to particular social networks, which can fast track you to premier/first-tier opportunities that would not come otherwise.
However, obtaining access is one thing, but having people view you in a more respected light is a whole another game.
For these people, it's not enough to have lots of money (the fact they are spending it on things that generally won't produce solid financial ROI on its own is evidence of that).
Their children must exude the same level of status that only an elite university diploma can confer. More importantly, having a degree from an elite school helps dispel the argument that your good fortune is not a result of luck, but rather merit.
A quote from Max Weber captures this social dynamic perfectly (bolded is added emphasis):
The fortunate is seldom satisfied with the fact of being fortunate. Beyond this he needs to know that he has a right to his good fortune. He wants to be convinced also that he “deserves” it, and above all, that he deserves it in comparison with others. He wishes to be allowed the belief that the less fortunate experiences his due. Good fortune thus wants to be “legitimate” fortune.
Just replace "religion" with "college admissions" and Weber explains our current scandal clearly.
So the question is: what does it mean if you're super wealthy (e.g. the 1%), and your offspring become mere extensions of your own status in your country's social and economic hierarchy?
I'll leave it to you to answer that.
P.S. Read this piece to get a greater understanding of whats truly at stake here: The Scandals of Meritocracy