“Universities tarnish their admissions process because they use it to raise money”

Research
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It’s the latest college admission scandal: How the wealthy use bribes and connections and get their children into elite universities.

But years before the current scandal, Dan Golden was writing about a similar scandal for the Wall Street Journal – and winning a Pulitzer Prize for his stories in 2004. Golden spoke about how the rich use their influence to get their children into colleges at “Pizza, Press & Politics,” a lunchtime speaker series at Northeastern University, sponsored by the School of Journalism.

Golden, who grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University, first worked at the Boston Globe, eventually making it to the Spotlight team, the Globe’s investigative unit. Later, Golden went to the Wall Street Journal.

Golden covered what he called the business of education. Most education reporters cover small things like “retiring professors or a student who won a prize.” However, Golden decided to take a different approach. He looked at the money and business aspects of education.

Golden dug into at a Supreme Court case from 2003 involving the University of Michigan, in which white students, who were denied admission, complained about affirmative action. But he discovered a similar program that benefited white students: They had a much better chance for admission if the their parents were alumni or state legislators.

Golden’s first story about education concentrated on how white students, who had parents who attended, received legacy preference – a white version of affirmative action.

Golden later acquired a document that showed little relationship between certain student’s academics and admission. Students with poor to average academics were getting into prestigious universities, if those students had parents who were either famous or were big donors.

Golden’s articles earned him the Pulitzer Prize. He turned this into a book called, “The Price of Admission.” In his book, Golden decided he had to write a chapter about Harvard University, his alma mater, so no one would think he was giving preferential treatment. While looking at Harvard, Golden found a committee full of donors and looked at where their children went to college. He found that 50 to 60 percent of their children attended Harvard, a school with one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country.

Golden, who is now a senior editor at ProPublica, specifically looked at one donor, Charles Kushner. He noticed Kushner’s son, Jared, attended Harvard, but found that he was not a good high school student. Golden found that Charles Kushner had donated $2.5 million to Harvard around the time Jared got to the school. Jared later married Ivanka Trump and now works with the president in the White House.

While his book was written more than a decade ago, Golden noted that nothing has changed. The subject matter is “as accurate today as it was when I wrote it,” he said.

Commenting on the recent scandal, Golden said, “This new scandal has seemed to echo everything I have said in my book.” Golden also noted that the system will never change as both Democrats and Republicans benefit from it.

In the latest scandal, a middleman is accused of bribing college officials to help dozens of students get their children into top universities, including Northeastern.

Golden recently wrote another book called “Spy Schools.” He looked at foreign students attending universities to steal research for their home countries. Schools are nervous about identifying these students as spies because more and more schools are opening up branches in foreign countries.

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