Americans see college admissions as rigged for wealthy, oppose special treatment: poll

A new poll shows that the public views the college admissions process as institutionally rigged in favor of the privileged few and respondents overwhelmingly oppose even legal preferential treatment given to minorities, athletes or alumni families.

The findings come on the heels of the college admission scandal in which several rich families, including well-known celebrities such as actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, bought their kids’ way into prestigious colleges across America via a "side door."

But while the scandal exposed the illegal ways some have played the college admission system, even without the current uproar, the public believes the system generally favors the wealthy.

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Over two-thirds of people surveyed in a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll say college admissions favor rich people or those who are well-connected.

“If you're a millionaire, you can get your kids to the front of the class,” Robert Lynch, 62, of Selden, New York, told the pollsters.

Less than a fifth of respondents said the admission process is fair. The feeling of unfairness in the process was bipartisan, with both Democrats and Republicans agreeing the rich are being favored.

“Respondents in the poll are saying money talks, and they don't like it,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center, told USA Today. “Across all demographics, Americans find college admissions unfairly favor the wealthy and the well connected.”

But the public also indicates legal ways of getting special treatment for children in the admissions process, including opening a checkbook to the university in the form of a charitable donation, is also wrong.

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A staggering 83 percent of those surveyed said it’s not acceptable for a university to favor applicants whose families donated money to the institution or bought a building.

Only 13 percent said it was acceptable, though they believe donations to the universities from the rich actually help make the institution more accessible to the rest of the applicants, according to the newspaper.

The majority of respondents also oppose preferential treatment given to the children of alumni or to athletes or minorities.

When it comes to affirmative action, the poll found that both white people and black people surveyed view the policy as “unacceptable,” though the margins differ, with nearly two-thirds of white respondents disapproving of the practice compared to 48 percent of black respondents who share the same view.

Only a fifth of white respondents support affirmative action, compared to 43 percent of black respondents.

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“That's still racism in a sense," Calvin Crawford, 18, a senior at University High School in Spokane, Washington, told the newspaper.