Breakthrough New York’s Statement on the National College Admissions Scandal and Inequality in College and High School Admissions

In the recent nationwide college admissions scandal, well-connected parents were indicted for paying large amounts of money to cheat in order to get their children into prestigious universities. In doing so, they “used their wealth to create a separate and unfair admissions process,” according to federal prosecutors.

As an organization that values integrity, hard work, and the well-earned accomplishments of our own students, we are appalled by this abuse of wealth and privilege. We are heartened, however, that those engaged in these illegal activities are being held accountable and the Justice Department has said it is committed to stopping such schemes in the future. We hope that this is a step—the first of many—to create a more level playing field in college admissions.

Every student deserves an equal opportunity to pursue and access higher education on their own merits. Unfortunately, the current system does not always work that way. There are legal ways that some families use money to create unfair advantages for their children and influence admissions decisions.

On a more widespread level, students from low-income backgrounds face barriers to success, from schools with inadequate resources in their communities, to a lack of resources like SAT prep, guidance counselors, college visits, and pre-college programs. The same challenges exist at the high school admissions level. Here in New York City, students with well-resourced families or schools receive extensive test prep for the SHSAT to help them get into the specialized high schools. (Click here to read our statement on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to diversity the specialized high schools.) 

This is why Breakthrough New York exists. We make sure our students have access to resources that are taken for granted in more affluent communities. And, we empower our students to fulfill their potential, while conducting themselves with honesty and integrity.

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The obstacles our students overcome underscore how impressive their accomplishments are. Year after year, all of our rising 9th graders get into college prep high schools and all of our high school seniors get into to excellent four-year colleges. Most importantly, our students can truly say that each and every accomplishment they earn is their own.

The college admissions scandal has sparked a much-needed national conversation about inequality. Colleges themselves are no doubt examining their own policies and practices. With our 20 years of experience in helping low-income students access college, we stand ready to help them in any way we can to ensure a fairer and more equitable system moving forward. We are also poised to work with the New York City Department of Education to ensure fairer and more equitable access to our city’s specialized high schools.

Above all, we will continue to stand proudly with our Breakthrough New York students and families, on every step of their educational journey and beyond.