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It's time to take a hard look at these so called prestigious universities

By Meena Yeggina

That wealth could get your kids into an Ivy League is a well-known secret. My kids attended a prestigious private school here in the Silicon Valley, but they were different from most of their peers. We were not affluent in the way some students were, we had to work for every penny that earned their education. And about 80 percent of the parents were like us.

That's why, whispered rumors and anguished murmurs about how kids with lower grades got into Stanfords and Harvards solely through their parents "wealth," though distressful, were harsh parts of our reality. "Just donate a couple of millions and you are sure to get in you know where," a parent friend whispered into my ear during a parent–teacher conference once. Though those of us who were from the middle strata of society felt slightly overwhelmed with all the money talk surrounding us, we were hopeful about the college acceptance system at large.

Good grades could never fail. Your kids will have a future at a good college.

These were the beliefs we stood by as hard-working immigrant parents, whose dream was to have their kids study in an invigorating and rigorous university. These notions were only solidified with each new rumor surrounding a promising student who, despite their humble backgrounds, got into good colleges.

However, to my dismay, for every deserving candidate, there was also another not-so-deserving one that got into a top college. To a lot of us who didn't have the affluence or moral ineptitude to buy our kids' acceptances, this was incredibly frustrating. But, what could we possibly do? It's an accepted fact that money speaks; and if you know someone through your money, for example in the board, then it becomes an added bonus. Your child is in (please do remember, all of this is based on the experience I had while my children grew up, observations and rumors that defined their own perspective of college. Maybe a fantastic letter of recommendation, sports, or college essay could have done the trick for some students).

We silently watched as rich-kid after rich-kid, not so deserving, got into top rated universities, but happy that our kids got in too, the hard way.

Keeping this background in mind, I must say, the recent allegations against CEOs and celebrities bribing their kids into college, is a whole new level of low. And a mighty mountain for us commoners to climb.

This corrupt route is well known in India and probably one of the main reasons my generation migrated to the US: to taste equality at all levels. The U.S. is well known for just treatment of its citizens. At the lower tiers and pinnings of society, corruption is at its minimum. Or so we thought. Busting so many parents who are actually paying to get their kids in is extremely shocking to many of us who believed in this country and its principles.

All this being said, hope is not completely lost. By cracking the whip swiftly on the offenders while naming and shaming them, government agencies restored some semblance of justice.

"This case is about widened corruption of elite college admissions to the steady application of wealth combined with fraud," the federal prosecutor announced, to the reassurance of many. "There can be no separate college admission system for the wealthy and I add that there will be not be a separate criminal justice system either."

It's splendid that this bribing machine is busted and many big names have come out in the open. But, the main question that is worrying parents and kids with dreams in their eyes and hard work as their asset is - is it really over? As if the bribing through their noses in addition to "donations" is not enough, the existent bias towards the migrant community is another serious hurdle that is hurting children. As we speak, Harvard is being sued by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) for its bias toward Asian-American applicants who "have consistently received lower scores on soft skills like "likability," "helpfulness," "integrity" and "courage."

If this is not worrisome, what is?
Under these circumstances it's time to have a hard look at these so called prestigious universities as well. How prestigious are they really if they cannot even see beyond money and race? This is something all parents and kids need to think about. We, including myself, need to rework our priorities and value systems to ensure we stand for the justice and meritocracy this country promises us and our children. That, truly, starts with us, not them.

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