The US media is awash with news of 50 parents, including Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman, television star Lori Loughlin, and CEOs of major companies getting charged by federal prosecutors for bribing and cheating their way to securing seats for their children at prominent American universities, including Ivy League ones. These parents and their collaborators exhausted every trick in the book, from cheating in entrance tests to pushing non-athletic children into colleges under athletic scholarships. The travesty isn’t that the privileged bypassed the system nor is it the fact that hallowed American higher education institutions aren’t paragons of inclusion they think themselves to be. It is not even the fact that tiger parents with the means to buy a gilded future set a poor example for their children.What should rankle the most is that top-billed universities in the US don’t have the basic due diligence in place to detect such fraud.
The investigations found no evidence of the universities/colleges having been in the know, and two of the colleges at the centre of the admissions fraud investigation have decided to consider action—the parents may themselves face jail-time. But that doesn’t mean that questions will not be asked of the varsities’ selection procedures that are supposed to be watertight. If this fraud has been happening for quite some time, there is no telling how many deserving candidates would have lost. There is a lesson here for India, which is seeking to expand private sector participation in the top-quality higher education space—it must have systems in place to avoid such fraud, else the privilege of the few will be perpetuated instead of gains being more broad-based.