Get your checkbooks ready. Today, we’re paying for rejection.

Anybody who has applied to college knows how expensive the process can be. Not only do application fees run up to $100, but you also have to pay to take admissions exams and to send out exam scores and academic transcripts. For some, this process can cost upwards of $1,000. Despite these high costs, there’s no guarantee you’ll get in anywhere. What’s worse is that we as a society put up with this.

How is this deemed acceptable? We’re spending $100 per institution for them to tell us that we’re not good enough to spend up to $60,000 a year to learn in their establishment. In a society which practically mandates a college degree, how is this system serving anyone’s best interests?

America claims to be home to the brightest minds and best academic institutions in the world. Pointing proudly to schools like Harvard and Yale, we say the American dream is alive and well and available to all those who seek it. What we often fail to mention is that an Ivy League education is only available to a very select few.

These schools turn away some of the most qualified minds in the name of exclusivity, saying that they have limited resources and can’t possibly accept more students than they currently do. But anybody with a basic understanding of math would see that just accepting a small handful of extra students each year could easily fund expansion, whether it be building more dorms or hiring more professors. It’s not about resources, it’s about the prestige that comes along with having an acceptance rate in the single digits.

What most people fail to realize is that college is a business. People aren’t going to want to pay the highest tuition rates to go to a school that accepts everyone. They’re going to expect the most exclusivity out of the most expensive institutions. Why would universities turn down this profitable opportunity?

One of the most important things is a university’s academic ranking. This number holds incredible influence over how many applications and what kinds of applicants the school receives. It’s only natural for each school to try and raise their public profile and ranking. Who doesn’t want to be the best? However, this becomes problematic when academic quality is sacrificed in efforts to raise the school’s image.

At many of these schools, the largest hurdle you’ll face isn’t graduating. It’s getting in. These exclusive institutions promise their students the job of a lifetime if they can manage to make it through the rigorous admissions process. Who wants to hire somebody who didn’t excel in college? It’s far easier for students to land these positions if everyone has a high GPA. This might require grade inflation or lowering standards, but who cares about trivial things such as academic quality when the prestige of having students employed at Fortune 500 companies right after graduation is on the line?

So why does this matter? Who cares what happens in the admissions offices at Harvard and Yale? I didn’t apply there anyway!

Education is one of the cornerstones of a great society. It should be made available to anybody and everybody who seeks it. If we want to maintain our claim that we are the best and the brightest, then we should make sure everybody has equal access to a quality education. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not prestige, but knowledge that matters.