Don’t you know he never shirks

13 03 2019

I could give a shit about the Ivy League.

They’re good schools, no question, but out of the over 3000 institutions of higher education in the US, they educate a relatively small number of students. And while I don’t doubt that those Ivied students receive a mighty fine education, I also don’t doubt that those same students could receive an equally fine education at a non-Ivy.

No, what matters is not that you graduate with a BA or BS, but that you graduate from Harvard or Yale.

So be it.

(When I was younger I was so overawed by the Ivies that not only did I not even consider applying there, I was impressed that a friend at Madison had a friend who went to Harvard. I had her get me a sweatshirt when she visited him there.

That awe had diminished by the time I lived in the Boston area. I occasionally walked through Harvard Yard and. . . it’s very nice. I like college campuses, and the Harvard campus is. . . very nice. But, really, that’s all it is: another college campus.)

Anyway, this is all only adjacent to the SCANDAL of rich people paying off craven people in order to guarantee their rich kids a spot at their preferred university table. Yes, in a land in which a rich man can legally “donate” $2.5 million to get his dim son into Harvard, it is truly shocking that rich people will illegally “donate” somewhat less to get their heirs and heiresses into universities of their choosing.

This is mostly just an irritating/amusing combo, but the bit that does truly chafe was pointed out by someone on Twitter who, like me, attended a public university. I can’t find the tweet-storm, but he noted that the real damn crime was the fact that public universities have been starved for funds and that the mighty fine educations one can receive at such institutions is increasingly out of reach for too many.

My first semester at Madison, in 1984, cost $500, 550—something like that; by my last semester, it was over $900. For the fall of 2019? $10,555.52 for a Wisconsin resident. Also, neither the SAT nor the ACT was required, nor, I believe, did I have to write an essay; in my recollection (which, y’know, may not be reliable), it was a two-page application. As a Wisconsin resident with a decent GPA, I was in.

To apply today? SAT & ACT scores (minus the writing portion) are required, along with two essays, a letter of recommendation, and rigorous academic preparation.

I did not have rigorous academic preparation, and while I did take both the SAT and the ACT, I didn’t prepare at all and was hungover for at least one of them.

I did fine at Madison, and graduated with relatively little debt.

Now, maybe all the testing and essaying and whatnot serve a real academic purpose, but as a first-generation college student who went to a high school where maybe 10 percent of my graduating class went to college, I’d have had damn little guidance on how to navigate all of those requirements.

Ugh, it’s late, and once again my points are skittering away from me, but I want to reiterate that the damned shame about higher ed in the US is not that a few rich people are gaming the system, but that that same system—entrance into which is seen as necessary to have any kind of shot at a decent life—has increasingly been turned into an expensive game in its own right.