Advocates Channel Public Outcry on College Admissions Scandal to Spotlight Educational Equity
March 21, 2019

“The ‘best’ education in America is always purchased — occasionally with tuition, but more often with a mortgage.”

In a recent piece on The 74, 50CAN Executive Vice President and PIE Network Board Member Derrell Bradford compares the recent college admissions scandal to the cost of housing in a high-performing school district.

“Paying off a college official is bad, but gaining school access through America’s skewed housing market is OK?”

Bradford joins other advocates across the Network who are channeling the visceral public reaction to Operation Varsity Blues, the recent college admissions scandal, to shine a bright light on the need for real progress towards giving all kids a fair chance at a great education, not just in college but throughout our education system.

In a post on Education Post, Erika Sanzi, a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recounted the story of two mothers that were criminally charged for “stealing an education” when they sought to get their children into schools outside of their low-performing zoned district. You can watch Kelly Williams-Bollar, one of these mothers, in a 2017 panel at the Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit.

Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, criticized the outsized coverage of the scandal while he believes the media overlooks what happens everyday in classrooms:

“The result is as predictable as it is cruel: About half of students leave college with nothing but debt and regret. Where’s the wall-to-wall coverage about that?”

Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, digs into what he calls “affirmative action for the rich” in a post on The Hill:

What these parents did is illegal; but the real scandal in higher education is what’s happening in college admissions that is legal. Thanks to policies like legacy and Early Decision, there are more students at the 38 highly selective U.S. colleges and universities who come from families with earnings in the top 1 percent of the income distribution than from those in the bottom 60 percent. “

And in an op-ed in the New York Times, The Education Trust’s Director of Higher Education Policy, Tiffany Jones, discusses the hidden—and often paralyzing—cost of free-college programs, designed specifically to provide opportunities to working-class communities.

“Less recognized but just as devastatingly widespread is the unaddressed shadow crisis of nontuition costs, like housing, food, books and transportation (as well as child care). These necessities—often rendered ancillary fees by rich or upper middle-class parents who can pick up the tab as their children focus on class—are rarely covered in even the most generous of states.”

While “#AuntBecky” continues to trend as details of the scandal unfold in the headlines, advocates are seizing the moment to focus the swell of public attention on the millions of students and families who deserve a fair chance at an education that prepares them for success.


    Ashley Schmidt

    Ashley is PIE Network's Senior Director of Member Engagement & Communications


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