I do not see why very wealthy parents should not purchase places for their dull offspring at prestigious universities. College classes are very seldom full, so these silver-spoon admits very seldom “take the place” of students with more brains and less money. In fact, with the wealthy parents’ gifts in hand, prestigious universities could cut costs for other students. And if the classrooms get crowded, they could use the gifts to build bigger classrooms.
Universities are already very loud in proclaiming that test scores are not everything, that they require a mix of students, and that students with sub-standard test scores often contribute to the campus community in other ways. Well, it seems to me that 1.5 million dollars is a pretty valuable contribution to the campus community. It may not equal contribution of certain varieties of pigmentation, or ball-handling, or inventively lachrymose autobiography, but it sure is not nothing
And I think it would be disgraceful if, after cashing the parents’ checks, the universities ran these silver-spoon admits into the mangle of a weed-out course. A silver-spoon admit should have a reasonably chance of earning a silver-spoon diploma. If this requires a silver-spoon major, then make a silver-spoon major. It wouldn’t be hard. Universities have a lot of experience inventing soft majors for students who were not admitted for their hat size.
Here I expect to hear sniffy remarks about devaluing a diploma from Rutabaga U., about the introduction of “noise” into the “signal” of that most coveted of all sheepskins. To this I can only answer that, in the court of world opinion, the prestige of Rutabaga U. will skyrocket when some paparazzo snaps a photo of little Suzy Silverspoon in her Rutabaga U. sweatshirt. As for the court of academic opinion, they know that all but three departments at Rutabaga U are shams.
If we are honest, we will admit that we do everything we can to give our children an advantage over other children. My children are approximately the color of a knockwurst sausage, so their pigmentation causes the uncorking of no champagne bottles in college admissions offices, but I cannot say that I would complain if it did. I have a little learning, and while raising my children, I have not hidden it under a bushel basket so they would have no advantage over the children of parents with a little less learning. The payoff of my informal pedagogy does not seem to have been large, but the point is that I was not behindhand in playing the card I was holding.
And, like many of you, I had some hope of a small return on investments in books, piano lessons, educational travel, speech therapy, orthodontics, and lessons in a foreign language. My children are very far from being silver-spoon admits, but I did everything I could think of (and afford) to ensure that they applied to college with something more than toothpicks in their mouths. And for their rivals who were lucky to apply with only a toothpick, this was not strictly egalitarian or altogether fair.
So, I do not see how anyone is harmed if Rutabaga U. allows Suzy Silverspoon to hang around its campus for four years, and then awards her a Bachelorette of Silverspoon Science. The value of what she brings to the university is beyond dispute. The value of what she takes away is her problem.