A Scandal for Our Populist Moment

William “Rick” Singer leaves a federal courthouse after facing charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Mass., March 12, 2019.

The alleged college-admissions bribery ring exposed earlier this week has something to enrage everyone.

The college-admissions scandal should be the populist issue of our time.

Most of the talk in our politics about how “the system is rigged” is incredibly abstract and symbolic. But this is infuriatingly concrete.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department revealed a massive effort by wealthy parents and a shady “admissions consultant” to bribe and cheat their way into getting kids into a slew of elite schools.

Prosecutors say William Singer, the ringleader of the operation, sold two forms of services. For tens of thousands of dollars, parents could pay for their kids to have a proctor correct their incorrect answers as they took the SAT. Or, if that wouldn’t do the trick, parents could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe coaches at elite schools to designate applicants as desired athletes, thus circumventing the minimum requirements for grades and test scores.

In one case, a California family allegedly paid $1.2 million to Singer, who in turn allegedly paid Rudy Meredith, the women’s soccer coach at Yale, $400,000 to claim that the family’s daughter was a coveted recruit even though she didn’t play at all.

This scandal is a staggering indictment of higher education, and American education policy generally. Virtually every constituency in American life has good reason to be rankled. Defenders of affirmative action for various minority groups are rightly livid about this effort, by mostly rich white people who already have every advantage imaginable, to game the system. Opponents of affirmative action who argue that merit alone should determine admissions…

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