The idea of the American dream has yet again been shattered as dozens of wealthy American citizens and celebrities along with several college administrators and professionals have been federally indicted on charges of engaging in a college admissions fraud scheme.
The nationwide conspiracy to cheat college admission exams, over exaggerate or fake athletic abilities and guarantee admissions into elite United States institutions such as Yale, Georgetown, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) has shown that millions of dollars were being paid in bribes to college administrators and officials.
This scandal, more than taking the spaces of qualified individuals, unfortunately leaves those who are admitted by merit burdened with having to find ways to fund their education if they cannot afford it. Why? Because their parents, who possess wealth and status, wield their influence in the form of briberies to ensure their child receives scholarships and financial assistance to attend some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions.
What this scandal proves is there’s no real room for someone to climb to success fairly in the United States. In fact, it proves the nation operates around the idea of “the haves and the have nots.” The reality is, in the U.S., the more money a person has, the more accessibility they have to bypass the normal processes those without deep pockets must encounter.
In America, the idea that if someone works hard enough and puts enough effort in they can be and do anything is very unrealistic. Why? Consider Lauren Fidelak’s case as an example. Fidelak, a Louisiana high school senior who maintained a 4.0 grade point average and scored a 34 on the ACT applied to both USC and UCLA but was denied admission, according to a recent article in The Advocate.
This caused her to have an emotional breakdown in which she was hospitalized. She worked hard and put forth the effort and time to pursue some of the largest collegiate names in the U.S. But the sons and daughters of celebrities and wealthy citizens who were mediocre students — one even publicly denouncing college — and mediocre athletes had parents who wrote checks as bribes for their guaranteed admissions.
But, within this scandal, think about the students who’ve earned their admissions by merit and whose finances were barriers to their access to institutions such as UCLA and USC. Scholarships were limited and financial aid wouldn’t cover the tuition and expenses.
However, in this scandal, money talks more for those who possess the ability to use it as their language, versus those who might have to simply rely on merit. Therefore, those who can pay to guarantee their admissions and pay to be provided scholarships and financial assistance do so, while those who can’t give up on their dream of attending the prestigious institutions.
When it seems as though such an idea like the American dream could exist, there’s always a wrecking ball that reminds everyone it only exists for a few. What this scandal teaches us is the American dream is reserved for the few who are wealthy. And though the poor and middle class Americans are climbing to achieve the American dream, the likelihood of arrival is uncertain if the payment isn’t right. If America is to live up to the idea that it offers a dream that the nation’s hardest working citizens can enjoy success and continue to achieve anything with hard work, the influence that status and wealth carry must be minimized.
But this becomes difficult as the nation was founded on the idea of wealth building and maintenance for a few at the inhumane expense of the many who are poor. Considering the history, think about the many ways that such a divide in wealth can provide greater access to building and maintaining wealth. Wealthier Americans can pay attorneys to find loopholes in tax law to avoid paying their fair share, while the middle class bears the burden of providing the taxes which carry the nation’s operations.
It’s the wealthier Americans who move from poorer areas and communities taking with them their wealth and tax base. This has caused wealthier communities to provide youth in their communities greater access, exposure and opportunity to achieve success. However, poor and middle class Americans struggle to find decent schools that will provide their youth an equitable education that opens doors to success and opportunity just like in the wealthy communities.
And don’t mistake this as the idea of every wealthy person using their wealth to surpass the hurdles used as barriers to those who have little. However, this is simply challenging the idea of the American dream existing in a place where the inequality gap is large. And what doesn’t heal the situation is the value placed on status and wealth in the nation and, of course, the privilege that comes with it.
America must come to terms with this reality: it’s a nation of haves and have nots. The nation must address this reality with meaningful and intentional efforts to provide equal and equitable playing ground despite race, sex, ethnicity, religion or preference; close income inequality gaps; and provide equitable access to resources and opportunity. It’s with these actions, instead of being the nation of haves and have nots, America becomes a nation true to the idea of the American dream we tout so proudly.