Scandals strain student trust in university admissions

College admissions scandals in the news prompt people to consider issues with the college admissions processes at universities throughout the nation. Pictured is the Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation office, which is located in the Student and Academic Services building on campus.

News of wealthy parents bribing admissions officers to ensure their child’s spot at elite universities has consumed the nation in the largest discovered college admissions scandal in history.

The recent scandals have exposed shortcomings in the admissions departments of several prestigious universities throughout the nation, as detailed in an article published by the New York Times. Despite NAU's status as a less prominent university than many of the top-tier schools stricken by scandal, some students wonder whether or not the school might also be prone to maladministration.

Sophomore Brian Endres said he is unsurprised by the degree of deceitfulness involved in these schemes, and that he blames the occurrence of these scandals on the greed of wealthy individuals.

“Rich people are still going to do what they want and not conform to the rules,” Endres said. “That’s just how it goes.”

Sophomore Victoria Bridges said she was surprised by the magnitude of the scandal. Bridges said she feels that what has come to light might only reflect a small percentage of what is really happening. She also wonders how long this issue has gone undetected.

“I know a girl on the rowing team at the University of Southern California (USC), which is where Olivia Jade — one of the students involved in the scandal — attends,” Bridges said. "Like my friend, Jade was being looked at for the rowing team, and I know how hard she worked to get a position on the team. It's unfair that someone else just kind of walked in and got a position without being that skilled at rowing."

Endres said he agreed that the scheme negatively affected deserving students, who could have otherwise been accepted into the colleges of their dreams. He said he feels that affluent members of society have an unfair advantage in applying to college.

“The scandals are very unfair, because there are kids who work really hard for an opportunity they will probably never get again,” Endres said. "If you’re rich, you can practically do whatever you want. That’s how it’s always been and how it always will be."

Marisela Favela is a junior at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, Arizona. She plans to attend NAU for her undergraduate education. Favela said the college admissions scandal is like a slap in the face for those who worked hard to attend prestigious universities. She said she feels the adults involved in the scandal are primarily to blame for the hurt caused.

“The people who were bribed — their greed was what blinded them from making the morally correct choice of saying no to those offers,” Favela said. “The coaches didn’t take into consideration what would happen if they were found out. They even put their college’s name and reputation at risk. As for the parents, I understand why you would want to do the best for your child and want them to succeed in life. But cheating is never the way to go. If anything, the parents involved have done more harm than good for their kids' future.”

Endres said that because of the recent college admissions scandal, she’s concerned about NAU’s admissions department. Despite the school's status as a public university, she said she feels that scandals can happen anywhere.

“I’m sure it’s like that everywhere,” Endres said. “People can be sketchy. It seems like everyone’s just in it for themselves.”

Bridges said that although she's concerned, she doesn’t believe bribery and scheming have occurred within NAU's admissions department, at least not to the same degree as they've occurred at some high-profile universities.

“I don’t think scandals here would be as intense or become as public as they did at USC or Yale University,” Bridges said. “If it is happening here, it probably involves people who work here attempting to get their kids or someone related to them accepted, but that’s just speculation."

Information made public about NAU undergraduate admissions suggests situations like these are unlikely to have occurred at the university. According to the Princeton Review, NAU’s acceptance rate for 2018 was 83 percent, and the average high school GPA among accepted students was 3.6.

Students are guaranteed admission if they meet certain requirements. NAU's website states, "You will be offered admission to Northern Arizona University if you have a 3.0 or higher core GPA (based on a 4.0 scale and calculated using only the 16 required core courses below) and have no deficiencies in those core courses."

Endres said that because NAU’s acceptance rate is significantly higher than that of the prestigious colleges typically involved in scandals, and because the average GPA of those accepted is significantly lower than at those colleges, it is difficult to imagine people going to such great lengths to get their children into NAU.

Because of NAU’s high acceptance rate, relative to that at more elite universities, Bridges said NAU feels more welcoming. She said she finds comfort in believing that NAU is not involved in questionable admissions practices.

Bridges said the nice thing about NAU — being a public university — is that if a student has done everything they need to do to get in, they’ll most likely be accepted. She said she thinks public universities are more nondiscriminatory in their admissions practices than private institutions. Bridges said there’s hardly an opportunity for wealthy individuals to bribe their ways in. She said she feels NAU is disinterested in favoring one person over.

Despite feeling that NAU is likely free from scandals, Bridges said she is not convinced cases like these will cease to continue, even with the great publicity the scandals have received.

“I think someone will find a new way to go under the radar," Bridges said.

The sophomore said she hopes students are, at the very least, able to take pride in their personal achievements.

“I think it's important to know what your beliefs are and to stick to them,” Bridges said. “Know that what those people did was morally wrong and take pride in the fact that you got into college fair and square."

Favela said if admissions scandals are to continue, it is important for people to understand that hard work can often get them to the same places that money can. She said there’s no way to buy the pride honest work can bring. She said people can’t cheat their way through life and be happy with themselves in the long run.