College admissions offices have begun courting high-school counselors in new — and expensive — outreach programs that appear to border on corruption, if they don’t cross the line entirely. The New York Times looks at some of the efforts made by more obscure universities to attract the “best” candidates:
Though the image of the admissions process is often one of high school guidance counselors sidling up to colleges in hopes of gaining an advantage for their students, the reality is sometimes the other way around.
Colleges are so intent on getting not just enough applicants, but the best ones, that some are lavishing perks on guidance counselors, raising questions about the difference between merely promoting a university and currying favor with those who speak directly into the ear of students and parents trying to evaluate it. …
When Centre College in Danville, Ky., invites counselors to visit, for example, it puts them up in a bed-and-breakfast and takes them golfing at a country club and to the racetrack. It even gives them a small stake – around $50 – so the counselors can gamble on the horses. … The University of Southern California took more than a dozen counselors to the Orange Bowl last year, also out of gratitude and to create what it called a “lifetime memory.” … Some colleges in vacation areas like the Adirondacks or Vermont invite counselors to bring their families and stay free for a few days in the summer. And the University of Denver used to fly in counselors to ski Vail but ultimately stopped because it cost the university too much.
The same institutions that gripe about the pharmaceutical industry paying for expensive junkets for prescribing doctors now want to corrupt guidance counselors into pushing their product. With federal aid comprising a much-bigger slice of incoming tuition, one has to wonder whether these colleges see graduating high-school students as the key to big paydays, making the extra effort profitable in the long run. But as these schmoozefests escalate, as they surely will (sort of like the academia equivalent of gas wars), the cost will make themselves felt in the pocketbooks of American parents and taxpayers.
Parents now have to ask their students’ counselors whether or not they’ve accepted junkets to the schools towards which they push their students. Wasn’t it bad enough when this type of kickback scheme only emanated from the Atheletics departments? Instead of fixing the problem there, universities have allowed it to spread. That’s the nature of corruption, of course; it rarely stays compartmentalized.