“Forget Bribery. The Real Scam Is Pretending That Degrees Have Value.”

That’s the title of an article in Bloomberg by Elaine Ou.  She makes some good points.

… none of the parents involved in the recent college admissions bribery scandal tried to get their kids into Caltech or MIT, the sort of universities where students are generally expected to acquire skills relevant to a productive career. As it turns out, parents pay obscene sums to marshal their offspring into elite schools not for the sake of education, but to secure their offspring’s socioeconomic status.

Successful parents in the upper middle class can leave money to their children, but that doesn’t guarantee entrée into the social elite. The more reliable way for powerful parents to buy power for their children is through a name-brand, exclusive education.

. . .

As long as Ivy League alumni occupy positions of power, academic credentials will remain costly and scarce. Ongoing credential inflation is not evidence of a bubble about to burst, but a reflection of how successful the elites are at convincing the greater populace that degrees are valuable.

There’s more at the link.

I think Ms. Ou makes a good point.  The enormous sums spent by parents on bribing their kids’ way into Ivy League universities can’t possibly be because of the quality of education there.  Equally good or better educations could be obtained from dozens of other U.S. universities, for a far lower cost.  Clearly, the cachet of an Ivy League university’s name on one’s diploma was the point all along.  Now that it’s been exposed that such diplomas can be had for mere money, rather than actual hard work and learning something, what’s the point of them?  If I were an employer, looking to hire someone on the basis of what they’d learned, I’d conclude that they wouldn’t have learned anything at such universities – so why should I hire them?

Mike Rowe’s WORKS Foundation is looking better than ever!



  1. My gut reaction to the ‘scandal’ was “Oh, my! Wealthy twits are bribing their kids’ way into the Ivy League. So what ELSE is new?”

    Hell, that was widely known when my late Father got his scholarship to Princeton…and that was just before WWII! He used to say that he was an early Affirmative Acton case…back when the Ivy Leave, in the name of diversity, was looking for students from beyond the Allegheny Mountains.

  2. Attending an Ivy League school is essentially paying $200K for a rolodex. Its the alumni contacts in high places that assure the success of anyone who gains acceptance to the Ivy League.

  3. The Ivy League degree isn’t about education. (The average grade given is an A minus.)
    The Ivy League is all about knowing the right people, thinking the right thoughts, and repeating the right slogans.

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