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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's not just cheaters: From legacy privileges to special testing exemptions to private tutors and other professional services, it's increasingly clear that America's selective college admissions system has a problem.

Why it matters: These are assaults on equality of opportunity, which American politicians have preached for generations.

  • 4.2% of students at wealthier public schools have designations for extra time during tests, the WSJ reported today.
  • At poorer schools, it's only 1.6%.
  • White students disproportionately benefit: 64% of special designations go to them, while they're less than half of public school enrollment.

The big picture: College admissions have become ruthlessly competitive, and the existing rules allow people to buy advantages without breaking a single rule.

  • "Public high schools decide which students get a special designation like a 504 that puts them in line for more time."
  • "Typically, a medical professional must assess a student and decide he or she has some condition such as anxiety or attention problems."
  • "In affluent communities, parents are more likely to know this option exists, and can pay for an outside evaluation if the school won’t."
  • "Many poorer families can’t afford such testing even if they are aware of the process."

What's next: The College Board is rolling out an "adversity score" to give socioeconomic and environmental context for test scores.

  • And Operation Varsity Blues is still unfolding, showcasing the number of elite parents willing to pay to get their kids through the side door.

The bottom line: Nothing will, or should, prevent a parent from doing the absolute best for their child.

  • But it's increasingly hard to square the idea of meritocracy with a system that consistently conveys structural advantages on those born into wealth and social connections.

Go deeper

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.

Muslim families hope to reunite following Biden's travel ban repeal

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Muslim Americans across the U.S. are celebrating President Biden's day-1 reversal of former President Trump's travel ban that targeted several Muslim-majority countries.

The big picture: The repeal of what many critics called the "Muslim ban" renews hope for thousands of families separated by Trump's order.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  4. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  5. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries.
  6. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

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