Friends who are parents of high school seniors spent the last year — not to dismiss the preceding 17 or 18 — going through the high-stakes drama of college testing, campus visits and the excruciating wait for "the letter" to arrive from the admissions office.
I know others — and I bet you do, too — who grit their teeth and spend eight, 10 or 12 hours a day at a job they can't stand in order to pay their kids' college bills.
None of us is naive enough to believe the college admissions process is easy, nor should it be. But fair? Why should my family and friends go through this nausea-inducing, often pretentious, experience when Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman and Hallmark Channel actress Lori Loughlin allegedly commit felonies to get their kids into school?
Since the founding of America's first college in the 1600s (Harvard, by the way), admissions tilted to the highest echelons, making it a very undemocratic process in our fledgling democracy. Proof? Harvard accepted only those who knew Latin and Greek, and often, Hebrew.
Congress enacted The Northwest Ordinance in 1787, laying groundwork for Ohio's General Assembly to establish Ohio University in Athens in 1804, the year after Ohio became a state. Fifty years later, the federal Morrill Act created land grant colleges, including Ohio State.
Land grant colleges were a concrete step toward extending higher education to broad segments of Americans, especially farmers.
Following World War II, the GI Bill swung the doors of higher learning open for returning veterans who had a high school diploma.
President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty focused on education and training as a way to break the cycle of poverty by helping underprivileged community members develop job skills and find work.
This is where national policy and my career converge. During the ’60s, community colleges were established, including Cuyahoga Community College in 1963, my first employer post-graduation from OU.
Tri-C allowed both workers and workers' children from any race, religion or ethnicity to become their families' first college graduates. Scores of veterans returning from Vietnam used their benefits to enroll at Tri-C and, in a groundbreaking effort, women, including divorced women who had never been in the workforce, were welcomed.
I recall seeing a parent and child in cap and gown on graduation day or several members from one family.
So when I think of Huffman and Loughlin, especially Loughlin for the goody-two-shoes roles she always played for Hallmark, I could just wretch. These high-flying families are accused of criminal fraud, including photo-doctoring their kid's head onto the body of an athlete, bribing college sports coaches and paying for falsified college exam results. I'm still waiting to see the perp walk of the financiers responsible for the economic meltdown in 2008-09, so I'm not holding my breath for this one either.
College and university presidents and trustees must be held accountable for ensuring the mandate of 200-year old legislation is met "…schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." If that means redoing policies, do it. If it means reorganizing admissions staff and recruitment priorities, do it. Higher ed has been severely criticized in recent years, and rightly so, for its inability to connect graduates awash in debt with jobs. It has caused some to question the value of a college degree. While I might argue that a college degree continues to give a leg up when it comes to lifetime earning potential, I hope the foot attached to that leg comes down hard on those inside and outside those institutions who commit crimes that prevent a deserving student the opportunity to walk through those front doors.