Author: Daniel Golden
Publisher: Crown Publishers
After completing my reading of Daniel Golden's The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges-Who Gets Left Outside the Gates which was published in 2006, I wanted to know how relevant was the book today. When I posed the question to the author, his reply was as follows:
“It's more relevant than ever today because the problem has gotten worse since the book was published. And of course Jared Kushner has become a household name!”
He referred me to an article he had written on the 10th anniversary of the book's publication why it is still timely.
The Price of Admission is quite an eye-opener particularly when you read the opening lines of the book where Golden mentions that America's upper classes all too often have enhanced their wealth and power across generations by preserving their status through college admissions.
The old adage that it is not how much you know but who you know is alive and kicking when it comes to being accepted into a top-notch university where admission policies, as Golden states, channel the children of the privilege into premier colleges which in turn pave their way into leadership positions in business and government. Every year thousands of wealthy, well connected applicants are being accepted into elite institutions of higher learning with little regard to merit or diversity. In fact, Golden states: “The children of wealth and influence occupy so many slots that the admissions odds against middle-class and working-class students with outstanding records are even longer than the colleges acknowledge.”
Lets not kid ourselves, if your parents attended a particular university and are important donors, your chances of acceptance just went up a notch and the kid who might have better grades than you but whose parents were not college grads or don't have the means to donate are left out in the cold. As pointed out, extra admission points are added to a student's application if one or both of that applicant's parents or even grandparents attended the school, which is known as legacy status. Quite interesting is that no one has come forward to make a serious effort to stop this practice and muster the outrage of ordinary Americans who want their children to achieve college degrees and white-collar careers that have eluded them which has become an upper-class privilege.
Another ticket to entry into a prestigious university is to have connections with a member of congress who can pave the way by making a few phone calls. Golden informs us from his own personal experience that once or twice a year, college presidents and very senior people come out and visit members of Congress to discuss various projects. Sometimes the member of Congress may casually mention that “little Johnny is coming up there. We'd like to bring him by.” This is a member of some influence and who has been helping the university in the past. The college president responds, “That is great. Have him give my assistant a call. Make sure to bring him in to see me.”
There is much to admire in this book particularly Golden's courage in not holding back when it comes to naming names along with grades and test scores. He tells us about how the sons of former vice-president Al Gore, Hollywood power broker Michael Ovitz, and a Senate majority leader Bill First leapt ahead of more qualified applicants at Harvard, Brown and Princeton. And he does not shy away from examining other disturbing topics including how some members of ethnic communities as Asians are held to higher standards than whites, how rich women, in order to comply with Title IX, receive scholarships in “patrician sports” such as horseback riding, squash, and crew.
In the end, one of the principal takeaways of the book no matter what your political persuasion may be is to recognize just how serious a problem there is when money, connections, fame and athletic ability are increasingly tainting the college admissions, undermining both its credibility and value of American democracy. My question is, when will Americans wake up and say, enough is enough?