Price Fixing: the Latest College Admissions Scandal


The admissions process sets students up for failure based on nothing more than their parents socioeconomic status, which is a factor over which they have no control. (Courtesy of Pia Fischetti/The Fordham Ram)

As the years go on, college admissions to top universities are only becoming more and more challenging, and parents and students are desperate to secure their spots in these universities — by whatever means necessary. 

Even the students that manage to ace the SATs, volunteer in their communities and actively participate in extracurriculars are not guaranteed admission to top schools. Still, parents and students are hoping to attend these universities, even if it means crossing some ethical boundaries.

Price fixing is the latest college admissions scandal. The lawsuit alleges that 16 prestigious universities engaged in price fixing to limit the amount of financial aid they offered students. While some of the universities didpractice need-blind admissions, others did not and actively favored wealthier students.

With price fixing, students are no longer being judged on a criteria of merit but rather on their ability to finance their education. Though it is the parents who are creating this amoral loophole in the college admissions process, it is the universities that are exploiting the parents’ desperation by allowing these wealthy but under-qualified students to join the ranks of the elite. 

The idea of a fair, meritocratic college admissions system has essentially been thrown out the window with this recent revelation. Students that have worked incredibly hard and given more than their fair share of time and effort into preparing themselves to be a strong admissions candidate are now overshadowed by their rich counterparts.

Furthermore, it is incredibly frustrating to know that merit is no longer a deciding factor since that is one of the few pieces of an application that students have complete control over. A student can study harder, take on more responsibility and volunteer in their community to elevate their applications. These same hardworking students, however, cannot magically procure hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to throw at an already vastly overpriced education. Most importantly, these students have no control over whether or not their parents are millionaires. They cannot suddenly come into the amount of money that is needed for them to stand a chance against these already incredibly wealthy families. 

Even more importantly, wealth is not by any means an accurate measure of intelligence or academic aptitude. The amount of money one possesses does not determine how intelligent he or she will be, nor does it determine how hard he or she will work. In fact, students of a lower socioeconomic standing need to work even harder than wealthier students just to be considered in the applicant pool. Poorer students are already at a disadvantage by not having access to better school systems and private tutors, so the fact that universities are denying entrance to these students based on their ability to pay is reprehensible. 

In light of the Lori Loughlin scandal, I cannot say that the news of this recent lawsuit shocked me. I, like many others, grew up hearing urban legends about just how wonderful universities like Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania were. In fact, my mother attended the University of Pennsylvania, and I always grew up believing that her success was a direct result of her attending this prestigious university. This translated to me and many other kids my age falling victim to the fallacy that anyone attending a rigorous school would be guaranteed a successful future. But as I grew older, I discovered that she was often at a disadvantage during her education because she was not only at a lower socioeconomic status than the majority of her peers, but she was one of only two Mexican students in her entire graduating class, an ironic fact considering prestigious universities often pride themselves on their diverse student body. As a result of these factors, my mother was forced to work twice as hard as her peers and ended up not enjoying her time at such a renowned school.

This lawsuit, along with stories like this, is now one of the many reasons that I, along with countless others, no longer believe in the Ivy League myth. The admissions process sets students up for failure based on nothing more than their parents’ socioeconomic status. These universities are deplorable; they promise  all students a fair and equal chance of success while only catering to a select few. Thankfully, however, many other universities in existence today do offer admissions based on merit and give generous financial aid. While those universities may not be as prestigious in name as universities like the University of Pennsylvania, they will undoubtedly produce driven and well-rounded students.

Carolyn Branigan, FCRH ’24, is an English and Film & Television major from Tinton Falls, N.J.