Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new phase in the sudden reckoning for universities is likely to be the outrageous — but totally legal — practices benefiting the wealthy and wired.

Driving the news: This week's revelation — about the corrupt use of bribes to improperly tap coaches' slots designed to help athletic applicants — exposed a "side door." There are also long known "back doors" that deny spots to hardworking, gifted students without money or connections.

Why it matters: The scandal is what's perfectly legal and customary.

Axios' Felix Salmon points out that beyond an education or credential, what students buy from fancy universities is social context, an invisible class signifier.

  • So the beneficiaries are the parents as well as the students.

A few of the legal ways college admissions are rigged for the wealthy:

  • The best-known is the preference and attention that go to parents who give massive donations and endowments before their kids apply — "development admits," in university jargon. As the N.Y. Times' Frank Bruni wrote: "It may be legal to pledge $2.5 million to Harvard just as your son is applying ... and illegal to bribe a coach, ... but ... [b]oth elevate money over accomplishment."
  • Another path that hurts would-be first-generation students at fancy schools is favoritism for potential legacy students — sons and daughters of alumni. Documents revealed in a lawsuit against Harvard last fall showed that "longstanding connections, sometimes built over generations," were among the "advantages enjoyed primarily by white applicants," per the Boston Globe.
  • Rich people hire ACT, SAT specialty tutors, and pay for their kid to take it until they nail it. Legal but not available unless you can bankroll it. 
  • Tax loopholes that help rich people are enablers of massive donations.

Be smart: Frank Bruni wrote a book about college admissions mania with the very accurate title, "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be." He tells Axios:

  • "Many, many college presidents are mortified, and some even worry about critics using this scandal to question the tax-exempt status of private colleges and universities." (Go deeper in this column.)
  • Bruni said it's possible some donors "giving for only high-minded reasons" will "see their alma maters more darkly than they did." But "the reckoning will come only if admissions reform puts the efficacy of those donations in doubt."
  • "Here's one wrinkle that ... complicates the narrative. But we need to acknowledge that some of these mammoth donations, even while tendered for selfish reasons, add to a pool of money that enables these most selective schools to be need-blind when it comes to the low-income students they do admit."

Help Axios tell the #UToo story: If you have a window into a shady college practice, share it on social media with #UToo, and we'll follow up. You can also email us at utoo@axios.com.

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
Please enter a valid email.
Please enter a valid email.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Subscribed! Look for Axios AM and PM in your inbox tomorrow or read the latest Axios AM now.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.

28 mins ago - Technology

Why domestic terrorists are so hard to police online

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Domestic terrorism has proven to be more difficult for Big Tech companies to police online than foreign terrorism.

The big picture: That's largely because the politics are harder. There's more unity around the need to go after foreign extremists than domestic ones — and less danger of overreaching and provoking a backlash.