Culture

The College Cheating Scandal Highlights The Different Paths Many Face Getting To College

When Denise Ocana heard the news the about the college admissions scandal, she wasn’t surprised. Ocana, 25, worked weekends at a swap meet with her parents to save enough money to attend UCLA, her dream school. Coincidentally, UCLA was one of schools embroiled in the the nation’s largest admissions scandal. Whether it’s working multiple jobs, studying long nights for the SAT or applying for endless scholarships, Ocana is one of many individuals that have to make every sacrifice possible to even have a chance of attending college.

While some were shocked to learn of reports that wealthy parents essentially paid to get their kids into elite schools, the news is a shot of reality. It’s also a glimpse into the two different playing fields people face when applying to their dream school. The scandal has started discussions about why factors such as donations and legacy status are part of the admissions process, which has traditionally benefited wealthier families.

The college admissions scandal reinforced the belief the process can be gamed by those with wealth and influence.

@karla_estrada22/Twitter

Like Ocana, Karla Estrada, 28, wasn’t surprised when she heard about the scandal. Estrada, a UCLA graduate, said it reaffirmed her belief that a portion of her classmates “got some help” in the admission process.

“It was common knowledge that some bought their way in but to have it confirmed was satisfying in a sense,” Estrada said. “But there’s some bitterness because it’s not fair to just have it handed it to them and have us have to fight for it.”

Estrada was an undocumented student which made getting any type of financial assistance nearly impossible. She worked full time to save for school and had no financial help from her parents. There was no federal aid available for her let alone enough scholarship money for her to pay tuition. For these reasons, Estrada had to find a sponsor to help her get enough money to attend school.

“We barely had enough money to eat let alone for school. I had to get sponsorship so I literally showed up to random companies to speak to their CEO to ask if someone could pay for my college,” Estrada said. “Lucas Oil and Lite Source ended up helping and because of them I was able to afford college.”

The scandal has started a discourse around affirmative action.

@EricaLG/Twitter

The admissions scandal highlights the racial and economic disparities that plague access to higher education. Yet when many students of color get access to these institutions, a stereotype follows them. The notion that affirmative action is the only reason they are there. At times they are accused of taking slots from white students just because of their ethnicity or race.

Izaak Ramirez, 27, disagrees with the notion that students of color get into college easier based on the color of their skin. Ramirez applied to seven colleges but didn’t get into UCLA, his dream school. He had to go the community college route despite having a 3.7 GPA in high school.

“It was overwhelming and I sat there and cried because of all the efforts I put forward felt wasted in a way,” Ramirez said. “Being a person of color or a Latino doesn’t automatically means you’re getting through that door.

Ramirez knows what accessing an elite school means in terms of getting a career and making a name for yourself. Grads of elite universities tend to earn annual salaries that are as much as 50 percent higher than all other college grads. That alone is worth making countless sacrifices to get themselves into these institutions.

Even during college things don’t get easier for many.

@hija_dl_trueno /Twitter

Ocana is currently in a graduate program at California State University, Northridge where she is pursuing a degree in Public Administration. Yet as she pursues the next chapter in her education, she is still reminded at times how hard it is to stand out at these institutions. Ocana says at times she feels she’s competing against the system and the admissions scandal reminds her how easy it is for some.

“No one’s surprised by the news and honestly it was just a matter of time before everyone knew,” Ocana said about the scandal. “If we all had the money to pay to get into college we’d all be here but what’s the pride in that. If my option was CSUN or USC , I’d still go to USC but that’s not how it works.”

Despite the advantages that some may have, hard work is something that will always be valued.

@latinoheritagela / Instagram

While the admissions scandal has shined a light on what’s wrong about the college application process, it’s also highlighted what’s good. For the number of those that try to cheat their way in, there’s more that are working harder just to get their chance.

Estrada is an example of this hard work. No legal status, limited financial help but a work ethic that few can match. Today, she is a immigration law & criminal defense paralegal trying to make a difference in her own community.

Despite the negativity the scandal has brought, Estrada hopes it starts a much needed conversation about the reality that so many Latinos and people of color have to endure in college.

“Sometimes we believe that we don’t belong here even though we have earned our seat in the classroom,” Estrada said “We have to constantly prove to the world we are good enough and then prove to ourselves. I say we are more than good enough.”

READ: UCLA Men’s Soccer Coach Jorge Salcedo Is One Of More Than 50 People Indicted In College Bribery Scandal

‘Side Hustle’ Episode 2: Nude Modeling And Friend Rentals

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‘Side Hustle’ Episode 2: Nude Modeling And Friend Rentals

mitú / dorainwoodmusic / Instagram

Side hustles aren’t just limited to freelance writing gigs. There is a vast world of side hustles that can make people a lot of money. Some of them involve art, modeling, and unusual rentals that people would need. That is what the second episode of mitú original series “Side Hustle” is all about.

“That’s not art. That’s you being nude.”

Dorian Wood and Tatyana are young Latinos trying to make it in this wild world in which we live. While some people rely on a regular 9-5 job to make everything work, these two people found a way to take something they like to do and make it profitable.

Wood is using his body to make money and a name for himself with a global audience. His art is something that some people just don’t understand but he is beloved in the art world for his performance art. His nude body is the subject of his work and he has been featured in art shows around the world.

Tatyana is a college student working her way through college like so many others. However, she is taking a different route to pay for her college courses instead of working a retail job. What she has to offer is friendship and it’s paying off.

Wood might be celebrated for his art but his mom has some thoughts.

“I did a show in Madrid and this artist comes up to me after the show and offers to do a mural of me so I just said, ‘Okay. What have I got to lose?’ A few months later he sends me this video of him putting the finishing touches on a four-story mural in Segovia in Spain of me completely naked and my jaw just dropped,” Wood tells co-host David Alvarez. “‘El Gordo’ is what they called the mural. It somehow just triggered something in me. I was like, ‘Oh. Okay. What if I tried art modeling?'”

Wood admits that his friends and family are a little confused by his work. He adds: “They think I’m insane. My mother sees me posing nude and doing nude performance art and she’ll tell me in Spanish like, ‘You know. That’s not art. That’s you being nude.'”

Tatyana loves to make friends and now that makes her some money.

“This is just a way for me to pay for classes,” Tatyana explains to co-host Sahsa Merci. “There was a list of 100 things you could do to make side money and I checked a bunch of them out. The Rent-A-Friend seemed like something I could be good at. So, I started it and I really liked how it was.”

Tatyana says that “it was definitely a little too delicate to talk about at first.” She added. “They know that I enjoy making new friends so for me to get some benefit out of it, also financial help for my school, they were happy about that.”

READ: Cuddling And Wrestling Are Just Two Ways To Make Money On The Side

In-Person Courses Have Been Canceled As Well As Recreational Activities, Now Students Are Protesting To Cancel SAT Exams Due To Coronavirus

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In-Person Courses Have Been Canceled As Well As Recreational Activities, Now Students Are Protesting To Cancel SAT Exams Due To Coronavirus

@college_bloom / Instagram

Virtually every sector of the U.S. economy has taken a hit in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The education sphere is no exception.

According to a recent report by the Washington Post, “an estimated 1 million high school juniors are missing the chance this spring to get their first SAT score, and many others face uncertainty about when they can take the ACT.”

Widespread exam cancellations and postponements have left many students uncertain as to what they will do come application season when many universities and colleges require the test.

Now students are calling colleges and universities to call an end to the tests altogether.

#TestOptionalNOW is the new trending hashtag that students across the nation have created in response to the uncertainty the virus has caused the tests. The hashtag along with a petition by Student Voice.imploring universities to waive the standardized testing requirements for freshmen applicants in the fall of 2021.

But many students are asking for just a temporary suspension, not just during this time of uncertainty. After all, the standardized exams have for decades been scrutinized for the inaccurate measures of intelligence and success.

The college scandal of 2019 —thanks to Aunt Becky and her wealthy cohorts— is just a recent look at how privileged people can easily change the outcome of tests and admissions only by forking money over to do so. Academic-based bribery is hardly a new scheme in the admissions process and the ways in which the system has become intricately rigged to keep out minorities is only just beginning to gain exposure. Minorities and low-income people are marginalized when it comes to admissions, test scores, and the workplace — it’s a system that continuously unbalances society.

When it comes to the SATs, an assessment test meant to categorize students solely on academic merit, this truth is no different.

The original intention behind the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is to show where a student stands among their peers, to indicate what their next educational move should be.

The SATs date back to the mid-1920s.

Carl C. Brigham, a psychology professor at Princeton University whose early writings strongly influenced the eugenics movement and anti-immigration legislation in the United States, created the SAT for College Board in 1926. Brigham proposed and produced the test after make observations that he said proved “American education is declining and will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive.”

According to PBS, the College Board “puts him in charge of a committee to develop a test that could be used by a wider group of schools.” And “In 1926 the SAT is administered to high school students for the first time.”

However, the wording as to why students had to take the SATs in the first place is marred with racial discrimination.

The SATs came during an immigration wave, and college boards and universities wanted to define who would be allowed in. The test doesn’t necessarily attest to who is smarter but more extensive information about the student, their race, and economic background. And yet, college admissions board do not consider this a factor in their admissions process. Proving that in a deeply flawed and unequal educational system, where segregation is still alive and well, colleges and education systems continue to fail students of color and those who are not. After all, research has shown that diversity in school’s only further benefits students, particularly in fields that are related to critical thinking and problem-solving.

The truth is that high-stakes standardized tests work in ways that reinforce racist and discriminatory systems of old. Continuing to accept notions that standardize tests are merit-based only perpetuate the race and class gaps reflected in their results.

Now the SATs will include an “adversity rating” that will allow colleges to know the school that a student came from to evaluate them in a more fair way.

The rating — 1 to 100 — would help the college board (who own the SATs) understand a student’s quality of education based on the neighborhood, the school’s economic standing, and other relevant information. So, if a student doesn’t do very well on the SATs, the rating would reveal as to the hardships that student endured. The rating does not include information about their race, but more so the economic struggles.

Some people feel that the “adversity rating” is something people could take advantage of by lying about where they live.

For example, if a parent knows that their child may not do well on the SATs they could lie about where they live to get a better adversity rating. This would help them achieve a better score.

“The idea that ‘this is a great SAT score for someone from your neighborhood, for someone of your background’ — it’s not fair to the students,” Venkates Swaminathan, a college admissions consultant told The Washington Post.

Others say the “adversity rating” will be a significant boost to go alongside affirmative action.

“Merit is all about resourcefulness,” David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said to the New York Times. “This is about finding young people who do a great deal with what they’ve been given. It helps colleges see students who may not have scored as high, but when you look at the environment that they have emerged from, it is amazing.”