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Editorial: The college admissions scandal brings up the issue of accessibility to higher education

The State Press Editorial Board weighs in on the widely-discussed college admissions scandal and the broken system


Illustration published on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

The pay-to-play college admissions scandal that federal investigators disclosed last week underscored what many of us in university communities across the country already understood: Many in the American elite obsess over the status that a person’s alma mater confers to them rather than the education they received. 

While ASU was not one of the schools implicated in the scandal, known to U.S. Department of Justice as Operation Varsity Blues, the University got a brief mention in an affidavit as a last-resort option for the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin — something that hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to overpriced private universities could help to avoid. 

The comments fly in the face of ASU's values of inclusivity, affordability and meritorious excellence. As a voice for the University’s student population, The State Press shares these values. 

But ultimately, glib remarks are just that. They don’t deserve our energy. What we truly take issue with — especially for a newsroom with several first-generation students — is the implication that an affordable, accessible public university education is something that is so distasteful to American elites that they are willing to pay to keep their children sheltered. 

ASU might not have the prestigious ranking of an Ivy League school, but the University provides an opportunity to pursue higher education to students who otherwise might not have the resources to do so. Plus, many of our programs — including the journalism school that many State Press staffers attend — rival equivalents at colleges with much loftier price tags. 

This isn’t to say that there isn’t room for ASU to improve. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients in Arizona are still put at a disadvantage relative to their citizen counterparts due to a 2018 Arizona Supreme Court decision that prevented DACA students from receiving in-state tuition, even if they’ve been long-time residents of the state. Compounded by tuition increases, ASU can continue to be out of reach for some of the most underserved populations.

Still, the pathway to higher education that our University presents to underserved populations is something even-wealthy parents should admire. Scorn towards the ASU model is a symbol of the social stratification and elitism that pervades many of the institutions in our country. 

If our system considers the defining quality of an individual the acceptance rate of the university they or their child attended, how are underprivileged families supposed to believe there is a path of upward mobility when there’s a toll booth held by the upper class that shakes them down for every penny they don’t yet have?

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