A few years ago, I babysat an eighth grader whose mom had asked me questions about the college admissions process. The girl was 14, but her mom already planned for her to apply to Duke University, and was pressuring her to join the school paper so she could put it on her résumé. Many kids are brought up to base their lives, schedules, friends and extracurriculars around getting into college. We take AP classes, SAT and ACT prep courses, join sports teams, join clubs, start clubs and take summer classes, all in an effort to eventually get an acceptance letter from a school we will be proud to display on our sweatshirts.
So, when someone like Olivia Jade Giannulli, famous YouTuber and daughter of Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on Full House, gets into the University of Southern California with its 13 percent acceptance rate for its class of 2022, it hurts. She doesn’t need to worry about getting a degree. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have a combined net worth of $100 million. Olivia Jade does not need to worry about money the way most people do. She doesn’t need a college degree in order to support herself. In fact, Olivia Jade, at 19, already has an estimated net worth of $500,000. Olivia Jade put out a YouTube video in which she said, “I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend, but I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone and hope that I can try and balance it all … But I do want the experience of like game days, partying … I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.” OK, it’s rough to hear that she doesn’t need the degree and doesn’t intend to work very hard for it, but if she earned a spot, she earned a spot. The thing is, she didn’t. Loughlin cheated to get her daughter into school.
Instead of the usual — donating a few million to a school in the form of a new building wing and hoping it lets your kid in — Loughlin paid $500,000 to make it look like her daughters were on the rowing team in order to get them into USC on a sports scholarship. This means that somewhere out there, there is a student who spent countless hours training, practicing and traveling to meets, working toward the end goal of getting recruited for college, but this student’s scholarship to USC was taken by Olivia Jade. She was not even on the rowing team. Did this student therefore get rejected from USC? Maybe she got in, but could not afford to attend as a result of not getting a rowing scholarship.
One of the many reasons this scandal is so frustrating is because wealthy people already have the upper hand in society without having to cheat or break any laws. For example, Ben Dreyfuss, son of actor Richard Dreyfuss, tweeted, “I got into college the old fashioned way: by letting my father’s celebrity speak for itself.” While wealthy and famous people can name-drop, or donate tons of money to a school, people who don’t have that kind of money or power simply have to work hard. So, when people who do have that money and power directly take things away from those who work hard, it becomes personal.
To me, this entire scandal can be summed up in a conversation from “Gossip Girl.” Chuck Bass proclaims, “For people like us, a college degree is just an accessory. Like a Malawi baby or a poodle.” Serena replies, “Well it’s an accessory my mother really wants me to have.”
For some, a college degree is a necessity; for many, it feels like an obligation; for others, it is an accessory. Everyone deserves the opportunity to earn a degree — “earn” being the operative word here. Everyone deserves access to education. If Olivia Jade wants to skip class and party, she should be free to. But not at the expense of the hardworking student whose spot she stole.
Sophie Miller is a sophomore majoring in English.