Random Thoughts on the Great Admissions Fraud

Shock: rich parents spent megabucks to give their kids a leg up!

It's been two weeks now, and up until the Mueller report exonerated Mr. Trump, the media were still obsessed with the massive college admissions scandal in which rich people paid a lot of money to get their less-than-genius kids who didn't happen to fall into favored victim groups into top-tier colleges.

Wait... that's a scandal?  That rich people use their riches to give their children an undeserved boost in life?  Even poor people do that - Korean parents who can't afford bribes have been known to skip meals to pay for extra tutoring for their kids.  Parents helping to push their kids along isn't even news.

For all the yelling and screaming and hundreds of articles already written on the topic, we at Scragged believe that there are several peculiar aspects to this incident that deserve fuller exploration.

Capitalist Tools

Suppose you win the lottery and decide to buy the newest, hottest Corvette, the 2019 ZR1.  You go down to your Chevy dealer, platinum card in hand, to drive one off the lot.  Alas, you can't: being the hottest of hot cars, it is available in very limited quantity and the wait-list is as long as your arm.

Does that mean you turn away empty-handed?  No, not you, newest member of the wealthy elite!  Instead, you tell the salesman, "You don't understand.  I want a ZR1 by tomorrow.  Money is not a problem.  How much?"

We all know perfectly well that you will, without fail, have your new car no later than the next day.  Why?  Because you made it worth the salesman's while, and he made it worthwhile to somebody else to sell their brand new ZR1 in exchange for a hefty check and a spot further down the wait-list.

Would we imagine that, if anyone found out what you'd done, you and the car salesman would go to jail for fraud?  Of course not - the very idea is ridiculous.

In fact, in economic theory, the whole point of money is to efficiently handle the problem of scarcity: those with money have access to things which are scarce, and those without money don't.

That's the theory behind asking people to get off an overbooked airplane in return for money - that way, you get less squawking, because the people who give up their seats choose to do so based on the amount of compensation they receive.  Ignoring the scarcity principle is one of the problems with our health care system - we're pretending that there's enough health care available that we can give unlimited health care to everyone who strolls across our border, when in fact there are only so many doctors, nurses, and pills available.

Given economic reality, from whence come the Federal charges and frog marches into court?  How is it wire fraud to freely give one's own money to someone in exchange for a service which you value more than you value the money you have to pay to receive the service?

For reasons not entirely clear, spots at certain celebrated colleges are far more in demand than their supply.  What's more, despite decades of massive price increases, the demand for top-tier colleges only increases.  If someone is willing and able to pay for the privilege of "earning" a watered-down degree, we may all be jealous, but what possible business is it of the government much less the police?

Even in our modern academic bastions of hard-core Marxism, capitalism has occasionally been allowed to work: we all know about billionaires who've donated funds to build a new building, named after themselves, not too long before their offspring - surprise! - is granted admission.  All perfectly legal.  In spite of a lot of hand-wringing on the Left, most colleges have a quiet "legacy" admissions policy whereby the children of alumnae, big donors, and powerful people can be slipped in the side door.

One could say our shamefaced celebrities were excessively gauche and clumsy.  Surprise - they're Hollywood types, equipped with neither morals, nor taste, nor good sense.  But since when did that become a crime?

A Purchase of What, Exactly?

Some opinion-makers argue that buying your way to the front of the line at a college is fraud because colleges are supposed to be meritocratic.  In other words, you're supposed to be at an Ivy League institution because you're the best of the best of the best, with the most well-rounded experience and the highest scores.

This scandal once and for all puts the lie to this idea.  Suppose that, instead of Yale or Stanford, the wealthy parents were obsessed with getting their kid into the physics program at MIT or Caltech.  Would their scheme have worked?

Well, it might have worked for a week or two, a month at most.  Why?  Well, consider how Olivia Jade Giannulli began her college career:

The fall semester at her school began on Aug. 20; a day later, Ms. Giannulli announced on Twitter that she had just arrived in Fiji. In a YouTube video, she said that she had gone for work.

We can safely assume that such a frivolous student would not long be granted access to the nuclear physics lab: we assume this based on the fact that there is a nuclear physics lab, and indeed a Boston and a Bay Area, rather than a glowing hole in the ground.  Hard-science degrees have solid, reality-based requirements that no amount of money can buy your way around.  If nothing else, the Chernobyl experience shows that unintelligent operators and nuclear facilities don't mix all that well.

What, then, does this say for the educational standards at the corrupt colleges?  If the kids were smart enough to get in, there would have been no need to shell out the megabucks.  If the kids weren't smart enough to get in, shouldn't they have flunked out PDQ?

Not only did this not occur, some of the colleges are musing about revoking the degrees of graduates who, years before, bribed their way in the door.

What on earth?  If the kids earned the degrees by doing the required work for four years and meeting the requirements of the course based on the grading standards of the day, how dare the colleges strip them of their degree no matter how they got in the door!  They have proved by their hard work that they deserved to be there.


Or did they, instead, prove that the degrees and the diplomas were totally bogus from the get-go - that just about any moron like AOC, once they've made it in the door, can skate through to a first-class degree that is meaningful only because everybody has deluded themselves that it is?

The Way to Wealth?

For generations, parents have browbeaten into their reluctant children with the idea that you have to go to college if you want to have a steady, good-paying job.  This has never been entirely true, but at one time it was more true than not.

Today, it's not the least bit true.  It is perfectly possible to get a high-paying job without a college degree in one of many blue-collar industries that are crying out for highly-skilled, highly trained workers.  Welders, plumbers, electricians - there are all kinds of work that can be had via an apprenticeship or a part-time trade school instead of a full four-year degree sitting behind a desk.

Yet, our society being what it is, most middle- and upper-class parents would be reluctant to see their child as a plumber no matter how much he or she brings home.  We still assign statuses to jobs that are entirely independent of their salaries - most college teachers make less than most plumbers, but their perceived status is the exact opposite.

Let's go back to Olivia Giannulli.  Like many young people, she reportedly did not want to go to college: she is "really angry with her parents because she told them she did not want to go to college and she was pushed. She has been passionate about her career and wanted to work and was doing well but that wasn't enough. Her parents said she would have to juggle college and her career."

So far, so normal - but Olivia is not your average teenage fry-flipper.  She was already hauling in more money than most grownups ever see.  As a YouTube star with millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions of views, she is estimated to have been making a staggering $800 a day.  How many teenagers do you know that make that much a month?  Your humble correspondent wishes his daily haul was half that, considering that YouTube pays on nights and weekends and normal jobs don't.

No, forcing this particular girl to go to college would be like forcing Bill Gates, Mike Zuckerberg, or Michael Dell to finish their college degrees - the sheerest of insanity.  They already know everything they need to know about raking in enough Benjamins to make world-class contributions to the alumni fund; there is absolutely nothing useful that some tweed-jacketed professor or textbook is going to be able to give them.

An ironclad insistence on the absolute necessity of a college degree is stupid these days regardless - it all depends on the kid and the degree, at the very least.  In the case of this particular kid, ladling out the lolly was moronic in the extreme.

Where Patricians Meet and Mate

Or was it?  The photogenic Ms. Giannulli was hauling in a solid $300,000 per annum, but in the circles her parents move in, that's no great shakes: it's a tidy income, but it isn't wealth.  Income comes from working; wealth provides income without you having to work, at least not in the ordinary sense.

To keep the money rolling in, Olivia has to keep the Instagram snaps coming - that's why she took that junket to Fiji instead of vegging out in Freshman Orientation.  In her particular line of work, it really was a legitimate tax-deductible business trip - no doubt the sponsored posts more than paid for themselves - but, again, the work must be done in order to get paid.

What Mom and Dad really want to see is their little darling in possession of a major stock portfolio sufficient to keep her in Amazon without having to do all those declasse posts.  Sure, she could save and invest the way mere mortals do, but wouldn't it be easier to just marry into money?

That's the only outcome which could possibly justify the half-million-dollar investment in smuggling Olivia into a college in which she had no interest, but which likely offered a large array of well-heeled young gentlemen who, based on her contours and texture, would likely be interested in her.  The fact that the admissions system was open to bribery makes it even better - the men she'd meet there might also be wealthy enough to bribe their way in and not smart enough to give her any lip about her career, should she wish to continue it as a lark.

To get back to our original point, goods were offered for sale and purchased by willing buyers.  Buyer and seller came to what the courts call "a meeting of the minds" - and such "sales" aren't necessarily always measured in dollars.  And don't tell us that Hollywood types don't think that way; we all know it to be true, now more than ever.

Who Decides What's Best?

And on that subject, there's one last bogus argument: that by taking a slot due to nothing more than a fat check, these cheaters stole that selfsame slot from some more deserving, smarter, but poorer scholar.

Let's face it: this may very well be true, presuming that the college had decided to admit only X number of students, versus X number of normal applicants plus Y well-heeled "specials."  But whose fault is that?  Not the rich cheating parents: it is the fault of the colleges, for disrespecting capitalism, liberty, and personal free will.

Imagine that an admissions ticket was a tradeable commodity.  Obviously some colleges might simply sell them to the highest bidder, but more noble ones might instead choose to award some seats for free to the deserving.

Now consider that a poor genius has, through his own earned SAT scores, been awarded an Ivy League spot which we now know to be valued at somewhere between $500,000 and $6 million.

You can get a perfectly good education at a first-rate state instution, say Virginia Tech or the University of Michigan, for around a quarter-million.  Wouldn't a truly deserving poor genius be better off cashing in their Ivy slot, paying cash for VT, and ending up with both a degree and a serious nest egg?  If what you care about is the betterment of the poor, who are you to decide the precise nature of their most important need?

All this economic activity contributed to our annual GDP, at least on paper.  Being mostly Hollywood types, they were wasting money that was wasted already when it was paid to them in the first place.  So what's the problem?  Money?

As a wise judge said long ago, "Anybody who tries to keep money out of politics isn't living in the real world."  Why should anyone expect colleges to be any different?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Why is it different than the Corvette. Because 2 reasons, 1) the people selling the product did not own it, and the people buying knew it was "hot". It's more akin to selling stolen goods and, 2) the difficulty of gaining admissions, in both pricing and academic standards, is directly related to school rankings. If those standards are not transparent and rigorously upheld the rankings are fraudulent and everyone who has "purchased the product" legally based on the rankings has been defrauded. Similarly, employers, partners, and investors relying on the prestige and supposed rigorous standards achieved by those that matriculate to one of these illustrious institutions have been likewise defrauded. Your metaphor does not stand up well.

March 28, 2019 12:06 PM

The articles premise------if you can do it and get away with it, do it----, is why we have the 'equal...' clauses in the Constitution.

As well, the TAXPAYERS foot the bill, and deserve equal treatment.

Petrarch does not sound 'Viking' but he would fit in well with the early Viking Culture---although they have grown out of it themselves.

March 28, 2019 3:29 PM


Again---my answer was CORRECT what is 10-5 it is an unsolved math equation.

beginning to doubt the viabilility of Scragged.

''What is sixty eight thousand six hundred and fifty six as a number?''

Proper question is---Designate sixty eight thousand six hundred and fifty six in numerical terms.

March 28, 2019 3:34 PM

@Carlos - I think you maybe didn't read far enough. The point IS that Ivy League educations, as such, are largely a scam, and anyone who thinks that the actual education received there is worth the price, has indeed been defrauded.

@Mike - Scragged has always been adamantly against violence except in the defense of the innocent. The Vikings were pretty famous for basically the exact opposite, so I'm not quite sure of the basis for the comparison. As far as the taxpayers - that's a good question, why exactly are taxpayers being forced to foot the bill for these frauds? But that's a different article.

March 28, 2019 6:54 PM

This story seems to be about branding gone wrong. The Universities/colleges which dreamed up a way to sell out basically said that pay me enough and get my brand on the cheap. Think paying for a high performance Corvette with a crummy engine with no pick up. These parents wanted to put a prestigious brand badge on their kid to impress their friends. In doing that , the badge diminished in value. The fake jock scam did a great job of uncovering the soft underbelly of big time college admissions. Parents got to say “ my kid is at Yale, USC.?, etc and you should be impressed...” Big price to pay for false prestige.

March 28, 2019 7:27 PM

And we should definitely note the enormous college fraud of the " athletes" who are accepted into colleges for their prowess to belong to/ be active in basketball, football sports!!!
Absolute morons accepted at colleges simply because they excell at a certain sport, which the college makes millions upon via games and tv events!
I went to Syracuse in 1970-73...the football players were asphalt dragging neanderthals!!! And women abusers! They were detestible!!!
I glance at my hubbies TV as I pass through the room and see the basketball players....their IQ's are obviously way far below that of our beloved daughter who truly has disabilities and is legally retarded!!! These guys couldn't pass any middle school exams of competency, yet, are in colleges!!! Only because they are playing a $$$ generating game!! That scam p-d me off back in '70-73 when I had to make the grade in college and it continues to this day! It should NOT be allowed!!!

April 8, 2019 11:18 PM

Great! Now let's look at all the asphalt dragging neanderthals that attend colleges as " students" who play basketball, football and such! Just looking at them you can see their IQ is way below normal...
I studied at SU in '70-73 and the footballers were beyond stupid and dumb; and women abusers!!!
It is high time this rip off of American taxpayer $$$ get addressed about these morons being given acceptance into colleges for their sports merits! when they are absolute morons and couldn't pass middle school test requirements!!!
We need to stop ALL federal funding of all colleges, period~~~!!!!!

April 8, 2019 11:25 PM

Like who cares?

April 25, 2019 7:20 PM
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