Giving Compass' Take:

• Mandy Savitz-Romer explains that the recent college admissions scandal is merely an exaggerated form of the business-as-usual inequity that plays out in universities across America. 

• How can funders work to help students of color access the educational opportunities that they are working toward? 

• Learn about a program at USC aimed at engaging low-income students

Many people were shocked to learn of recent reports that wealthy parents allegedly fabricated college applications, facilitated cheating on standardized exams and bribed university officials to secure their children’s places in our nation’s best engine for social mobility — selective colleges.

The case has raised alarms about the meritocracy that many have long believed defines U.S. higher education and social mobility.

Public outrage is warranted: When affluent families can simply pay money to ensure their already-heightened advantage in the educational system, one can’t help but doubt the truth about what it takes to advance in our society. But we should be concerned about far more than blatant bribery and cheating.

The reality is that students from affluent families have many advantages over low-income students when it comes to college admissions — and most of them are legal and rarely called into question. Ask any school counselors who’ve spent time supporting low-income students’ college plans and they will tell you that this scandal illustrates yet another advantage in an inequitable system that we expect students across demographic groups to compete in.

While the families in this case stand accused of leveraging highly paid “consultants” — and while others benefit from expensive SAT and essay prep services — countless students do not even have access to a high school counselor. Nationally, the average student-to-counselor ratio is 482 to 1, according to the American School Counselor Association.

As if that weren’t troubling enough, in many parts of the country, a student may have to compete with over 800 other students for time with a counselor. Research shows that counselors who work in schools that serve a high percentage of low-income students have higher caseloads and dedicate less time to college planning and support. In other words, the students who need the most support receive the least. Our failure to invest in counseling is a clear signal that, as a country, we are not committed to leveling the playing field.

Read the full article about the college admissions scandal by Mandy Savitz-Romer at The Hechinger Report.