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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Not the new normal

Not+the+new+normal

Measuring socioeconomic diversity at St. Joe’s

The country’s largest-ever college admissions cheating scandal was revealed last week by federal prosecutors who have now charged 50 people with counts ranging from mail fraud to money laundering.

These charges are part of a wider admissions cheating operation (nicknamed Operation Varsity Blues by the FBI) involving both monetary bribes to university officials at nine highly-ranked schools, as well as parents paying between $15,000 and $75,000 to have people take the SAT and ACT for their children. The scandal has even implicated several celebrities, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

These somehow unsurprising revelations raise questions of how much progress has actually been made in equalizing the college admissions process. There have always been ways to game the college admissions process; the current scandal is only revealing the absurd lengths to which some parents will go to secure an elite acceptance for their children.

Wealthy students gaining an unfair advantage in the college admissions process through their parents is nothing new. Even smaller-scale efforts like test preparation courses have become so normalized that we no longer think of them as a privilege.

SAT and ACT preparation courses are just one of many paths to an elite college acceptance only available to students whose parents have the means to pay. Likewise, “legacy” admissions and large donations have long been accepted as other ways wealthy students can gain entry to highly competitive schools.

With all the popular discussion about this scandal as direct evidence that the admissions process can be directly manipulated in favor of wealthy students, we can’t forget that navigating the college admissions process has always been a challenge for students from low-income backgrounds.

The result has been a continued lack of socioeconomic diversity in higher education. Income disparities persist at many schools, including St. Joe’s.

A 2017 analysis by The New York Times found that 74 percent of St. Joe’s students come from families in the top 20th income percentile. Out of 614 private colleges, the university ranked dead-last in the number of students represented from the bottom fifth income percentile.

These statistics are more than disappointing; they indicate that the majority of socioeconomic backgrounds are not represented among the St. Joe’s student body. Our current push towards a more inclusive university would be incomplete without an effort to recruit and support students from low-income backgrounds.

Low-income students who do end up attending college face obstacles during their time in school and after graduation. A 2016 study by the Institute for Education Policy at John Hopkins University found that only 14 percent of students from the lowest income quartile they surveyed completed college, compared with 60 percent of students from the top quartile.

The study’s findings, which indicate that low-income students face obstacles in mobility during and after their time in college, jibe with The New York Times’ report on St. Joe’s. Students from lower income percentiles who graduated from St. Joe’s were not likely to see an increase in their income mobility; only 1.1 percent of St. Joe’s graduates from a bottom income percentile moved up to a top percentile.

As the recent scandal has invited discussion on the value of a college degree, some students may be wondering how to gauge the true value of their St. Joe’s education, and The New York Times’ data does offer a glimmer of promise in that respect. St. Joe’s alumni earned higher-than-average salaries 10 years after graduation.

As we should be careful not to use the current college admissions scandal as a litmus test of what the process is now becoming, we should not use numerical figures like salary rates as a be-all, end-all indicator of what a St. Joe’s education offers.

Our school may not be ranked among the top in the country, but St. Joe’s students know the value of the education they receive here. We have a strong study abroad program with participation rates above 33 percent, a curriculum which offers practical application through co-ops and service learning courses, small class sizes and dedicated faculty.

Students know firsthand the academic and economic advantages to a St. Joe’s education—but it should be available to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

—The Editorial Board

This week’s Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor in Chief, Managing Editor, Copy Chief, Opinions Editor, Assistant Opinions Editor, Editorial Page Editor, News Editor, Assistant News Editor, Lifestyle Editor, Assistant Lifestyle Editor, Copy Editor and Photo Editor. This editorial reflects the views of the Board and not the entire Hawk Staff.

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