“I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend … but I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying … I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know,” is what Olivia Jade, a social media celebrity and the daughter of “Fuller House” actress Lori Loughlin, said in a YouTube video prior to U.S. federal prosecutors revealing in early March that she and her parents were allegedly involved in a nationwide college admission scandal involving several prominent American universities.
A total of 50 highly affluent parents, collegiate coaches, admission administrators and standardized testing administrators have all been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The methods of fraudulent admission in this alleged scheme involved either cheating on college entrance exams by bribing exam administrators or by paying stand-in test takers, or by fabricating athletic roles in a school sports program in conjunction with bribing coaches.
Jade’s parents allegedly opted for the latter and had her submit a photo of herself using a rowing machine with the implication that she was a competitive rower. Her parents then allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to a USC coach to designate her as an athletic prospect for the team to gain college admission; Jade was never a competitive rower nor had the desire to be one.
The sensationalism of this story is indeed astonishing and it does give credence to the idea that the system is rigged against ordinary Americans in favor of the opulent class. The real tragedy behind this story however, are all the lost opportunities that many college hopefuls were deprived of despite their rigor, merit and scholarly distinction.
With that said, looking at Jade’s socio-economic background, there is a question many have asked: why on Earth would any wealthy parent go through all this trouble just to get their already prosperous child into a university? Jade already had a successful YouTube channel and social media following and was being sponsored by various companies like Sephora and HP. There was no need for her to attend college since earning a degree would not have likely accorded her with any additional benefit. The answer, has to do with prestige and procuring an experience.
Now that this scandal has come to light, every parent in America ought to be asking themselves this vital question: should my child go to college? If the answer to this question has anything to do with prestige or procuring an experience, then college is not the right recourse.
The reality, is that there are only two reasons why anyone should go to college: (1) to enter the field of academia, or (2) to learn a technical and applicable skill. If the underlying degree does not achieve either one of these two purposes, then attending college is an unwise option.
With regards to the former view, the reason why someone should go to college is to advance an academic discipline and contribute to scholarly knowledge. With regards to the latter view, and perhaps the prime reason, is to learn a useful skill that has the ability to produce a good or service in the practical world.
With this in mind, if there is anything we can take from this scandal is that college institutions have a purpose and should not be treated frivolously. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, society needs to realize that there is nothing wrong with postponing college to contemplate other options. Other times, because of someone’s predisposition, perhaps the most sagacious option could be to simply abandon college altogether. Arguing for prestige or securing an experience however, are the most doltish reasons to go to college.