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Teach college-bound kids about privilege: It goes beyond the Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman scandal

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20.03.2019

Although the details of a college admissions cheating scandal are titillating (photoshopped pole vaulters, anyone?) nobody is shocked to learn that exceptionally wealthy people play by different rules. Many commentators have pointed out that the ultra-rich already legally pay for access to top schools (why engage in an illegal scam when you can slap your name on a building in broad daylight?). Across social media, students and their families admitted into college “on their own merit” expressed outrage that these folks robbed ordinary applicants of an even shake. This reaction ignores the structures of privilege and power that affect both college admissions and the college experience. We need to talk about that.

As professors who have worked with thousands of college students, we understand that no incoming college class is binary — divided between self-made scholars who bootstrapped their way to move-in day and the children of celebrities and donors. Today’s college communities reflect a wider array of social class, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and geography than a generation ago (though economic diversity at top-tier schools is decreasing and some elite schools, including Yale and Georgetown, have more students who come from the top one percent than the bottom 60).

Most students attend high schools that lack diversity. Today, school districts have become more economically and racially segregated than they........

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