Daily Video

March 29, 2019

Students’ take on the college admissions scandal



Directions: Read the summary, watch the videos and answer the discussion questions below. You may want to turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript here.


Summary: On March 12th, federal prosecutors charged 50 people, including CEOs and celebrities, for securing college admission for their children through elaborate cheating plots and bribery. Since the scandal broke, widespread controversy and outrage has bubbled to the surface from families who feel cheated. High school students from around the country share their thoughts on the scandal and the inequities within higher education. “It’s easier to get into college if you’re rich. I feel like that’s just a given. Like, everyone knows that,” said high school student Eleanor Wirtz.

Jane Fonash, a school counselor for 24 years with Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia and now independent college consultant, also weighed in on the scandal. She emphasized the need for college counseling services in public schools across the country to help student and families navigate the process.


Discussion questions:


1) Essential question: What did the college bribery scandal reveal about fairness in college admissions?


2) How do you think the scandal should affect the college admissions process going forward? What do you think should happen to the individuals involved in the scam?


3) High school student Fernando Cienfuegos says his extremely challenging academic record still would not guarantee him admission to top schools. How does the competitive nature of college admissions impact students’ views of higher education? How about the value of integrity and hard work?


4) How do limited resources in public schools present obstacles for students applying to college? What are some college counseling services provided by your school? If you’re not sure, how could you find out?


5) Media Literacy: Why do you think NewsHour chose to run a segment by its Student Reporting Labs? What do students’ voices bring to the conversation that adult voices may not offer?


Extension Activities:


Directions: Dig deeper with more stories about the college admissions scam and answer the following discussion questions.


Watch PBS NewsHour’s “How a bombshell bribery scandal illuminates the ‘corruption’ of college admissions” How is the cutthroat environment of college admissions a good example of what non-inclusion means? Do you think this culture will continue? Explain.


Watch “Explosive cheating scandal illuminates hidden inequities of college admissions” to learn how the college admissions has prompted new questions about access, race and inequality in elite higher education. What do legal donations to colleges which parents have been making for a long time have to do with race and economic inequality?


Read Inside Higher Education’s “How the admissions scandal could hurt students with learning disabilities” by parents allegedly coaching their children into getting diagnosed as having a disability, therefore qualifying for extra time or other accommodations for the SAT or ACT. Scott Jaschik writes, “Those who advocate for students with learning disabilities say the scandal has the potential to undercut progress they have been making in gaining acceptance of the idea that learning disabilities are real and that some people with them need accommodations in testing situations.” What lessons need to be unlearned by the children of the parents who allegedly pushed their kids so that they would say certain things to gain testing accommodations? 



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Extra, extra read all about! You may have heard the term “Student Voice” in school or over social media. What does “Student Voice” mean to you? If you think you have a good idea for an opinion piece, consider sending a pitch to NewsHour Extra’s Student Voice blog. The blog is full of powerful, original pieces by students. Write Victoria Pasquantonio at vpasquantonio@newshour.org. We’d love to hear from you!


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