Growing up, my grandmother taught me to be mindful of four things: to love God, take care of your family, give back to your community and to get an education. She lived each of these out in her everyday life. She made sure we went to church and read the bible, checked on family members, were involved in civic and social organizations that aimed to make the community a better place and to do our best in school and strive to constantly learn. When it came to our education she sacrificed and worked overtime to make sure she could do what was necessary to help us qualify and succeed in the pursuit of our higher education.
Historically, in many areas of society, the playing field was not level and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stated that all people within the jurisdiction of the United States should have the same rights. As it related to higher education, it made it illegal to discriminate against students and college applicants based on their race or gender. To further establish this legislation, Affirmative Action was established. Over the years, there have been critics who have claimed Affirmative Action was just a form of reverse discrimination; however, it was meant to be a tool to provide access where it had been previously denied. For the sake of our children and our children’s children, we must make sure this right is not derailed or denied based on someone’s economic status.
Most of us have heard the saying, “it is not what you know, but who you know.” Although this may be true in some cases, when it comes to a student being granted access or accepted into a college or university based on who they know, and how much they are willing to pay, this is simply unacceptable. I am not saying that every student who gets into college based on who they (or their parents) knew is not worthy, but what about the student who works hard and is denied in favor of the student who got in solely because of their parents’ money?
We’ve all heard in the news about the case where several prominent and wealthy individuals have been charged in college admissions bribery. Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman have become the poster parents in this case. Federal authorities are calling it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department. This is a slap in the face and an insult to those that legitimately work hard everyday to help students obtain the education and skills to compete fairly in the process. I know of organizations such as Concerned African American Parents (CAAP) run by Ingrid Johnson or the National College Resources Foundation run by Dr. Theresa Price that sacrifice and work tirelessly to make sure students will be able to fairly compete. What are we going to do about this? What is the cost of getting a higher education? Is it equitable?
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If all students are not given equal access (based on merit) to the same education how will we ever establish an equitable society? I come from a line of college graduates. My grandparents graduated from Marshall College in Texas. I graduated from the University of California Los Angeles. My daughter is a graduate of Spelman College and my son graduated from the University of California Irvine, but we all worked hard and paid our dues. When is enough, enough? Let’s give others the same opportunity.
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