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JLeslie's avatar

Should we have laws governing college acceptance?

Asked by JLeslie (59185points) April 11th, 2019 from iPhone

Obviously, there are laws about buying your way in, that is all over the news lately, but what about putting in laws regarding legacy admissions, sports scholarships, and Dean’s choice? If a private school wants to allow 30% of the student body be legacy, should they be allowed? Should a state school be allowed to do any of these things?


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16 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

I don’t think it is possible to devise laws that would cover every possible situation. So I would answer “no” to your question.

I think what we need is more honesty and ethical behavior.

canidmajor's avatar

Private schools rely heavily on alumni endowments, legacy students help enormously with that.

Would you deny scholarships to deserving students as well? State and federally subsidized schools should be held to a different standard, obviously, but the problems won’t be solved by legislation unless it is draconian. A student can make it through all four years and get a degree by doing almost no work. Papers can be bought, ringers can be paid to take tests in large lecture classes, there are many ways around the system for someone willing to pay.

If a wealthy person donates a $50 million facility to a state university with the understanding that their child will be granted a place in the freshman class, should the school turn it down? The facility will benefit thousands of students over the course of decades, is one place worth that?

There are too many factors involved here to define the concept of “fair”.

Demosthenes's avatar

I’m hesitant to say we need to regulate private universities any more. Ultimately I think as long as they are not violating discrimination laws, they can give preferences to legacies or athletes if they want. I may not like it (though I do suspect that I myself benefited from legacy admissions), but I don’t know that there should be a law against it. You have human beings deciding who gets into a school; it’s never going to be completely impartial.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think it’s a crummy practice, but I’m reluctant to tell private schools how to run their businesses (as long as they don’t discriminate based on race/religion/gender/sexual orientation/etc.). In the interest of fairness, though I could see the accrediting bodies require a “Legacy” stamp be applied to all diplomas where the candidate was admitted with legacy status as a factor. I think that would be a reasonable way to address the issue.

stanleybmanly's avatar

As with so many other aspects of living the myth of “the level playing field” should be openly scorned for the silly myth it is. The gnashing of teeth is pointless. Anyone otherwise eligible yet unaware of the “fixed game” or privilege should not bother with a college education, which by definition amounts to a preordained waste of money & effort.

seawulf575's avatar

Our whole higher education debate needs to include the conversation about should we have free college for all? Because if the answer is yes, that seems like a good idea, then you open a door to all sorts of governmental regulation including admissions practices, how much professors and administrators can make, etc.
The system we have right now seems to work for the most part. There have been cases of discrimination and that is bad, but there have also been cases of qualified kids getting passed over for admissions because their skin was too light. But in most cases, it is schools that get public funding in one way, shape, or form. To be honest, there aren’t a lot of colleges or universities that don’t accept government funding. Mostly they are religious backed schools. But as a private school, they should be allowed to adjust their admissions as they like, provided they aren’t discriminatory (as example, they can’t have an admission rule that says they can only have 10% blacks). A certain percentage of legacies should be allowed. Scholarships should be allowed anyway since the scholarship is supposed to be for the child, not the school.

JLeslie's avatar

Thanks for the answer so far. I too am reluctant to over-regulate the admissions process, especially on a private institution. Weren’t the schools forced to follow some affirmative action or quotas though at one time? Or, was that just public ones.

Should a child be allowed to attend if their parents give a big endowment? If we say yes, then I don’t see how that differs from what is in the news today. Maybe those rich people buying placement for their children should not be castigated. I don’t think anyone is surprised this was going on.

As far as free education, if it’s free, and giving money maybe would be classified as bribery, then the money question disappears. When my husbands cousin went to Cuba and tried to pay for medicine they wouldn’t take the money. There was no price. But, for this Q, I’m not asking about free school, that’s a new element that is not in the mix currently. We don’t have many free universities across the country.

seawulf575's avatar

Admissions have been a hot topic for decades. I remember a case at Marshall Law School (at Cleveland State University) where the school was sued for discriminatory admissions practices. They purposely were keeping blacks out. This went to court and the school lost, as they should have. But then the opposite side stepped up with equally ridiculous demands. As reparations, they wanted a certain percentage of the admissions be black (sort of okay) AND that they be allowed to graduate without regard to grades or performance. Huh?!? That makes no sense either. In the end, there was some regulatory oversight put into place on the school admissions as a settlement.

canidmajor's avatar

This article covers why it’s criminal:

This passage kind of sums it up: “Mail and wire fraud statutes identify a scheme to defraud as including the “right of honest services.” That turns the dishonesty of getting your child admitted to their college of choice into a crime that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The honest-services law had been a means to police corporate or official dishonesty without requiring proof of a benefit to the defendant. But in 2010, the Supreme Court, in the appeal of former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling, limited honest-services fraud to cases involving bribes and kickbacks.

Now if a university coach or employee takes payment in exchange for improperly admitting a student who is not otherwise qualified, it can be a federal crime because it violates the honest services owed to the school. For the parents charged in the case, paying the bribe means that they are just as guilty for acting as an accomplice in the fraudulent scheme.”

This all differs from benefitting the entire school by donating a substantial enough money to fund facilities that will benefit all.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor I couldn’t read the link, but thank you for explaining some of the details.

The money they bribed with, was it going into the pocket of one person at the school? It wasn’t going to the school in general?

canidmajor's avatar

That was the big thing, it was going to individuals and would not benefit the school. Sorry about the NYT article, I have trouble accessing them sometimes, too.
There was something else I read (trying to find it) that the bribes were funneled through a bogus charity, and s9me of the charges were money-laundering.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 ”...the conversation about should we have free college for all?”

I’m not sure if there are any politicians advocating that position. I have heard politicians advocating for tuition free PUBLIC college for everyone (assuming they have the grades and test scores to get in). That’s very different from free college for all.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie, if you google “money laundering Lori Loughlin” you’ll get an interesting choice of articles.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor Ok, WOW! Personal bribes?! I don’t think I really caught that previously. I haven’t been really paying attention to this news item.

That is outrageous. ESPECIALLY, the person receiving the money sickens me. For some reason I would expect people at a higher learning institution to have some integrity. Ugh.

So much corruption everywhere.

seawulf575's avatar


This article shows Bernie AND Warren have supported legislation to make college free for those with household income less than $125k. And looking at the plan, it isn’t just for PUBLIC colleges. And as I have pointed out, most colleges and universities take some sort of public money. Even schools like Harvard or Yale take federal funding.

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