By Richard Barth, KIPP Foundation Chief Executive Officer
I want to take a moment to address the college admissions scandal that is shining a huge spotlight on the systems of privilege in place in our country. While the scandal itself is absurd and these people have clearly broken the law, the role that money, power, influence, and race has played in access to higher ed is not news. In a world with expensive private tutors, extensive test prep, legacy admissions, and access to not so common sports (like sailing and crew), we’ve known that the deck is stacked. And yet somehow, it has been students of color who have found their qualifications questioned when they arrive at elite campuses. As one of our fellow KTC Counselors Mark Stucker was quoted in a New York Times article, “This scandal exposed the fact that there is a misplaced emphasis on so-called affirmative action inequities, rather than privilege.”
Our colleagues in NYC were confronted this week with news that only 7 Black students got into NYC’s most selective public high school, out of 895 spots. And that was all legal—no scandal involved. Our Chief of Public Policy and Affairs, Rich Buery, is an alum of that high school and shared with the NY Daily News this morning: “We have a system that is profoundly unfair—against the poor, against immigrants, against black and brown students, and against Asian Americans—and we call it a meritocracy.”
The headlines are a poignant reminder of why schools like ours matter. This is the work. This is why we exist — to provide opportunity and to overcome barriers of privilege. And this is why, in spite of many who question us, we go beyond what others think is normal.
- This is why KIPP has partnered with nearly 100 colleges and universities to strengthen support around college readiness and matriculation, and identify organizational structures and supports to improve persistence rates.
- This is why we’ve partnered with philanthropists to provide financial support, mentors, and summer opportunities for our alumni through the Dave Goldberg Scholarship Program, the Amplify Scholarship Program, and Help from the Hart Charity.
- This is why we help KIPPsters secure internships on Capitol Hill and provide the stipend and housing to make these unpaid internships an option.
- This is why our Alumni Leadership Accelerator is focused on building networks and connections necessary for reaching high-level positions of leadership and influence.
- And this is why we’re putting stakes in the ground in an upcoming whitepaper for Capitol Hill that shares recommendations from you on what PreK-12, higher ed, and the workforce can be doing to better support students on their path toward choice-filled lives.
This is also why we need to remind our KIPP students and alumni every day that they belong and that they’ve earned all that they’ve achieved. They shouldn’t doubt it for a second. This article was shared with me and it’d be great to share with your students as a reminder that they are always good enough.
The one upside of this scandal is the exposure it is providing to the real affirmative action battle that we are up against—the one that favors the white, rich, and powerful.