Personally, I think if someone wants to pay the way of, let’s say, 300 students to get full scholarships, so that their child can attend, this seems like a very sustainable model which benefits everyone involved.
$37 million buys a lot of resources so arguably this isn’t taking a spot away from anyone, if anything it is enabling these universities to provide more spots to students who deserve them, potentially at zero cost.
It's interesting to think about why this might be so.
Also, while they used to serve almost exclusively US students they now accept students from all over the world, making the chances of an average child getting in more remote. My father got into Stanford a long time ago when you could be a local kid at public schools with nothing distinguishing you but good grades and test scores. Now to replicate that feat you need an athletic scholarship, or an amazing personal story, a legacy, or a huge donation.
I believe this will begin to erode the concept of elite schools truly representing the most capable. In a previous job we sometimes found that kids who were coming from a good public engineering program were often more skilled at actually writing code than people from some fancy ivy league schools. The fancy schools turned out graduates who were usually smart and very polished. But they didn't necessarily have more of the skills we were looking for.
The life experience of DE Shaw himself makes you wonder why he why he values an Ivy League school so much. His biography demonstrates it is not the skills. It is the access and the pedigree.
Exactly. And what public policy needs to do is revoke the non-profit status of schools that fail to make any effort to expand despite having an abundance of resources and qualified candidates.
Harvard could easily accommodate 20,000 undergrads given the size and quality of its applicant pool. That fact that it doesn't spend a penny of its $30 billion endowment doing so reveals that its mission is brand management, not education. And that's perfectly fine. But it shouldn't enjoy a tax-advantaged status predicated on the make-believe that its a philanthropic organization.
Increasing the class size would be good.
But Danny Rubin isn't going to be able to teach screen writing to 120 kids instead of 12, even if he actually wanted to. RJ Tarrant can't expand his personal Classics section beyond 15.
And the undergraduate animal transplant surgery class (12-15 students)? How, pray tell, will that scale? If you wanted to 10x the size of the class... I don't know if there's a single place on Earth that conducts 10 transplants, human or large animal, in one building, at the same time.
Not everything can be scaled. Not even "not scalable" things can be scaled with money, even a lot of it.
A more interesting conversation is why nonetheless billionaires do a bad job at education, despite (not because of) all the money. I think this thinking is part of it. It also shows a lack of understanding of what makes Harvard special. It's not just "brand management."
Harvard could dectuple the number of faculty positions, and still turn away a dozen promising qualified academics for every position it fills.
I didn't go to Harvard, but I did attend a comparable fancy lad finishing school. The notion that there's any sort of magic compared to, say, Texas A&M doesn't hold up to scrutiny. The real difference is that the reputational capital of an Ivy League school. Which means that a bunch of impressive people will bend over backwards to become associated with the school.
Which in turn makes the institution itself prestigious. Which then attracts the next-generation of impressive people. Like a social status perpetual motion machine.
Overall, society isn't putting enough money into research. Elite universities hiring more faculty would be a great thing, in my estimation.
(Unstated above is that I believe that undergrad is fundamentally an in-person experience.)
Buy up existing hotels?
The George Washington University has purchased many hotels and condos and converted them to student housing, and that is downtown DC real estate.
Works well when you pay no property taxes.
Under capitalism. :)
So if it's hard to fit in more students per professor, then the issue becomes finding more teachers. I suspect that might be more of a bureaucratic/political issue. Research and teaching are conflated, putting teaching at the bottom of the totem pole and pay scale for most aspiring professors unless you're famous for being good at teaching.
Maybe there should be more dedicated teaching openings.
What needs to happen is a broadening of the definition of "top schools".
The issue is that a "top school" is a definition inherently limited in size. The top 10 is the top 10 regardless of whether there are 100 or 1000 schools being considered. Also, regardless of how many people there are, as an entire society we can only agree on a group so large before the "top schools" are no longer actually common knowledge (and thus not a "top school" in many important ways).
> $37 million buys a lot of resources so arguably this isn’t taking a spot away from anyone, if anything it is enabling these universities to provide more spots to students who deserve them, potentially at zero cost.
This is very speculative. His children getting admitted to these schools might very well take away a spot from someone else unless they would be admitted anyway or the numbers of admitted students increase. This discussion is a fascinating read, arguments from all directions rationalizing this behavior and somehow making it work within our social contract.
It weakens the signal of having gotten into a top institution.
I don't understand how sending your child to those institutions is worth $37 million. Wouldn't it make more sense to give it to them directly, or as funding for one of their ventures?
From other articles, their daughter became a comedy writer for Jimmy Fallon - that seems like the last profession to require a diploma from an elite university, or even a college diploma at all.
He's not known for blowing money ostentatiously -- never heard of his yacht/plane/private island/museum wing. Presumably he wants his kids to get the best education possible and to meet the most interesting people that they can, but I'm sure that he has absolutely no desire to give them enough money so that they can turn into the kind of billionaire brats that he detests.
We have universities that are 'better' (for some definition) in various disciplines; but generally a degree from any university is considered good.
And it by no means determines or describes your class position in the same way it does just a couple hours south of me.
On the other hand, from their mentality, why NOT do what it takes to give them the best 'chance' to 'succeed'?
I understand the value for an "ordinarily wealthy" individual, who is wealthy enough to give a bit to the university but does not have the sheer amount of connections that a super-wealthy one would have.
“I paid $37M to get you into that position, I expect you will produce >$37M in results.”
$37 million on a net worth of $7.3 billion is barely a rounding error.
Which is what the whole fuss is about-colleges would prefer to be bribed multiple millions by people like David Shaw for his kids, rather than a paltry few tens of thousands, like what the CT lawyer or Mrs. Half-the-voices-on-the-simpsons paid in bribes, the filthy plebes. The only people who should be able to corrupt the admissions process are the colleges themselves, and then only for amounts in excess of $1,000,000 paid by the gentry.
That the act of bribing one's way into a particular school is now a federal crime (the so-called "honest services fraud") is risible and out of the scope of what criminal law should concern itself with.
Paying high prices above board and openly for services is not fraud or corruption, bribing an employee to break clear standards and policies at their work place absolutely is.
OTOH, we could accept that no ratable harm has been done to the public at large, and that this comes down to a private dispute between the university, the bribee, and the briber, where the latter two could be sued by the former for negligence in performance and tortious interference respectively. Civil law provides remedies for this, what is possibly achieved by making it criminal?
Moving money like that is also, inter alia, going to corrupt the income tax system - if employees are receiving a significant percentage of their income through cash bribes from customers, it’s unlikely they’d report it properly on their income tax.
These laws seem quite reasonable to me. Do you also believe an employee stealing or embezzling funds from their employer should be a civil, not criminal matter?
Edit: to add, some of the colleges in the admissions scandal were public, not private colleges - USC and UCLA. So bribery of the officials in that case was bribery of an employee of the state, not just a private business. It should be obvious that legalizing bribery of state employees is a very dangerous path to go down.
No low-trust society ever legislated its way into becoming a high-trust society. I remember America before the "honest services mail fraud" statute was in place, and contra your assertion, 1987 America didn't resemble a third world corruptocracy anymore than it does today.
if employees are receiving a significant percentage of their income through cash bribes from customers, it’s unlikely they’d report it properly on their income tax.
s/bribes/payments/ ...this is a risk you run by allowing cash. Of course, the risks of not having cash as a method of payment are different, and in my thinking more substantial.
Do you also believe an employee stealing or embezzling funds from their employer should be a civil, not criminal matter?
Of course! While we're at it, I also believe that tax fraud is a criminal offense. Note that none of these need the contrivance of honest service fraud to have been well prosecuted in the past, nor should they need the federal prosecutor's favorite GOTOs of mail & wire fraud to secure a true bill from a grand jury.
So...any state employee? I mean, bribing elected officials and officers of the court is already illegal; I really don't lump college admissions officers (or college garbagemen, lifeguards, sysadmins, psychiatrists) into the group of people the corruption of whose duty is so serious as to merit prosecution in federal courts, simply by dint of where they get their paycheck from.
Which makes it kind of difficult to feel bad for the colleges who were supposedly the "victim" of these scams: they have no problem with bribery, they were just complaining that they didn't get their cut.
1. Arbitrarily small class sizes - the degree is not so much about the education as it is about the prestige of being in small class size. But long term, who cares? There are obviously candidates that have equal or higher capability if the universities can limit the class size. Besides those that don't go have cheaper market rates and are more attractive investments since the universities strategy is pretty much increase the demand by lowering supply arbitrarily.
2. The idea that you buy merit that is undeserved. To be honest, I am not sure why this is a big deal. Its not in the universities long term best interest to give its clients undeserved merit, because the market decides their merit, and if they pump out people that don't have skills over time their "Prestige" doesn't amount to much, and their customers will go elsewhere. To be honest, I think this is already starting to be the case.
Really I think this argument boils down to distasteful envy and jealousy of the things rich people can "buy", which if you examine it carefully isn't the case anyway.
I think you're underestimating the degree to which corrupt, inept institutions can maintain their influence over society.
This anti-social thinking is why the USA is not going to fix any problem in a meaningful and lasting way.
Sounds like one of those college essay questions.
The people with the most influence have so many intertwined unspoken relationships that there is no benefit to addressing whatever the underclass is talking about.
Coupled with the idea that many of their own children aren't even aware of what level of skill they demonstrated versus their family's money and clout. Many of them are oblivious to what other people struggle with, even if they are able to apply themselves in the same ways.
Hard to reconcile that with David not choosing to fly private. Maybe he has environmental concerns, but I would guess he exclusively flies private, especially since this article claims he's a little OCD about controlling every part of every process.
With regards to "buying" his kids' way into college, it doesn't look like there's any evidence that this was David's goal other than coincidental timing. But beyond that, David doesn't need to buy his kids' way into these colleges. Colleges love to accept the children of billionaires. Nothing is better than linking up an intellectual class with the wealthy class, and letting the melding of capital and innovation create powerful and successful alumni.
Brown traditionally let a few parents buy their kids a spot, but most other Ivy League places can find enough highly qualified kids who happen to be offspring of rich parents to not worry much.
Kushner offered a lot more than a million a year, and had a politically connected father and it was a generation ago.