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College scam: Top schools don't guarantee success

(China Daily)    13:54, March 19, 2019

The college admission scam that rocked the United States last week laid bare the extreme measures, sometimes illegal, that wealthy parents are willing to undertake to secure their children a spot at elite universities.

While a degree from a prestigious institution might sometimes be a pathway to financial stability and social status, some experts and educational consultants argue that the scam reveals a flawed perception by parents that entrance to elite universities is their children's only route to success.

"I think that because of the ranking publications, because of all the press that those top institutions received, it has really created an unfortunate situation that some families believe that is the only way their child can be successful and can be happy," said Stefanie Niles, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

"In actuality, there are many pathways to a high-quality educational experience," Niles said.

The $25 million admission scheme, exposed by federal investigators last Tuesday, revealed how wealthy parents bought their children entrance into schools like Stanford or Yale through bribes, cheating on standardized tests or faking athletic credentials.

The scam, orchestrated by 58-year-old William Singer, implicated a batch of people described by the prosecutor, US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling, as "a catalog of wealth and privilege", which included famous Hollywood celebrities and prominent CEOs.

According to authorities, parents paid Singer anywhere between $100,000 to $6.5 million to have their children admitted to a tiny group of highly select institutions.

These well-to-do parents' obsession over elite schools underscores a common perception in society that enrollment in a top university leads to a good career and a good life.

Alexis Redding, a visiting scholar at Harvard's graduate school of education who has studied college admissions for more than a decade, said the pursuit of elite college admission has taken on a "win at all costs" mentality for some families.

But getting into elite schools is not unique to the wealthy, it is a desire shared by families across all social classes and ethnic backgrounds.

In a study published in 1999, researchers Stacy Berg Dale and Alan B. Krueger found that "students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges".

Steven Mercer, operating an independent educational consulting practice based in California, suggested that families focus less on rankings and more on finding a university that is a good fit for their child's interests and abilities.

"The pressure that students are feeling to get into a top 20 institution doesn't need to exist," she said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Liang Jun)

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