EDITORIAL | Money can’t buy a rich learning environment

Editorials Opinions

Unfortunately, it often does

Left: photo accessed via okmagazine.com. Right: photo by Cormac O’Brien.

Olivia Jade Giannulli was on a yacht when she found out her mother was being arrested. Her mother is Lori Loughlin, who starred in Full House in the ’80s and ’90s, and is now one of many parents in North America accused of scamming colleges to get their children admitted.

According to the Justice Department’s report, Giannulli was admitted to the University of Southern California (USC) on the rowing crew despite never participating in the sport.

William Rick Singer, the man who falsified some students’ admissions, was paid by Giannulli’s parents to photoshop an image of her rowing on an indoor machine and create a fake membership for the LA Marina Club with her name on it. In an FBI investigation called “Varsity Blues,” similar stories were revealed detailing how celebrity parents scammed university admissions to get their kids in.

Even though Canada isn’t facing the same gravity of scandal as the United States, inequality is still an important factor when it comes to university admissions.

Basically, parents paid money to get their kids into college. They lied, and it worked.

It’s no secret that Canadians generally pay way less tuition than students down south. Tuition at the University of Southern California costs approximately $55 000 a year, while a domestic student at UVic will pay around $6 500. International students at UVic pay around $21 700 to $27 000 a year. That’s still a lot of money, and not an amount that’s accessible to everyone.

Even though Canada isn’t facing the same gravity of scandal as the United States, inequality is still an important factor when it comes to university admissions.

If your parents have money, it’s easier to be educated. Well-off parents can spend time helping their kids with homework or fund mind-stimulating extracurriculars. Some parents can afford to send their children to private schools with smaller class sizes and more resources, give their kids private tutors, and financially “help” them with their science fair projects. Not to mention the money wealthy parents can set aside to pay for their kids’ university through an RESP fund.

Suffice to say that if you’re in university right now, there is a high chance that you  got here because your parents helped you out somewhere along the way. Simply having the option to go to university is a privilege afforded to few. Being a Canadian citizen is also a privilege, since that status gives domestic students a $16 200 discount off tuition each year.

For the last two years, UVic has voted to consistently raise international tuition fees — four per cent in 2017, and 20 per cent for incoming international students in 2018 — despite protests from students and groups on campus. On March 26, the UVic Board of Governors is planning to raise international student tuition fees once again, this time by 15 per cent.

What kind of student body is UVic hoping to recruit? Is it a smart, diverse group of individuals passionate about their degrees, or is it solely the one per cent?

So we have to ask: what kind of student body is UVic hoping to recruit? Is it a smart, diverse group of individuals passionate about their degrees, or is it solely the one per cent?

A photoshopped image and a few million dollars was enough to get Giannulli into the University of Southern California. And sure, finding out her mom got arrested probably ruined her spring break yacht vacay. But let’s face it, rich and privileged kids have a clear financial advantage  getting into university, breaking into the workforce, and training their way to actual scholarships with varsity sports regardless of whether they’ve cheated or not.

International students inherently bring new perspectives to our classrooms, but raising their tuition will ultimately limit UVic in attracting a very specific minority of people — those that can afford to pay (soon to be over) $23 000 a year to send their kids abroad.

When the cost of university is so high that working hard to get the grade isn’t enough, every single student at UVic loses out — a university can’t be a ‘rich’ learning environment when only made up of the Giannullis of the world.

This article was updated on March 30 at 6:25 p.m.