Tear Down the Campus Wall

The allegations in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal outline a seemingly unlimited trove of dishonesty that wealthy parents have been using to get their children into top universities. Bribery, special accommodations under false pretenses, and even entirely made up athletic or classroom achievements, are some of the ways parents have tried to get their children into elite schools.

Yet the admission process at elite schools doesn’t require such fraud to favor the rich. Even when not overtly incorporating legacy preference policies favoring wealthy alumni families, this process can be gamed by those with economic means even without outright cheating.  Using fortunes that were themselves usually earned not through extraordinary intelligence, creativity, or hard work, but through a similar gaming of the political system via rent-seeking and corporate welfare, wealthy parents already have ways to ensure their children go to top schools. Meanwhile, graduates of more affordable community and public colleges are considered less worthy, even if they’ve worked harder than students at top schools in order to graduate.

Elite schools have many problems, but one cannot deny that they have a valuable academic product to offer, despite the fact that higher tuition and the evidently corrupt admission process have dissuaded many from applying there. But everyone could attend the Ivy League for free. Some years ago a Canadian man decided to attend the top universities of the United States for four years. He studied at Yale, Brown, UC Berkeley, and Stanford to mention a few. He just showed up classes nobody made him any trouble.

Meritocracy is the biggest American myth. As a narrative, it works to keep poor people quiet. The narrative says if people work hard and play by the rules they could be on the top. But this is a lie since 40% of Americans are one missed paycheck away from poverty despite working many more hours than their counterparts in other countries. Public education is no equalizer: a Boston Globe report on Boston Public School valedictorians found recurrent poverty even the ones who managed to graduate from college.

Higher ranking universities have specialized in producing politicians and CEOs who work to preserve the corporate-state in financing and directing the American Empire. The economist Murray Rothbard argued that, from a libertarian perspective, all universities including the elite private institutions are heavily tax-funded, so following the homestead principle: students, faculty, and workers who mix their labor with the stolen land should be able to take over the colleges from Board of Trustees and professional bureaucracy that only works against the interests of the community. Let’s give people all over America and the world the opportunity to study at top institutions. Free tuition is not enough in order to have a truly free education, it is time to tear down the campus wall.

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