Is anyone surprised that UVA has a watch list for rich donors’ kids?

Probably not

Education is priceless. Or so I’ve been told.

The Washington Post recently published an article about UVA citing evidence that a “watch list” of students who come from families that make substantial donations to the University. This list is managed by the advancement office, which does not directly influence the decisions made by the admissions office.

I could go into the details of the article, what was found in the leaked watch list. But I’m not going to. If you’d like to brush up on the facts, check out the Washington Post article.

Rather, I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts as your average Wahoo: one who enjoys the Rotunda on a beautiful day, who abuses the fro-yo machine in every dining hall, who spends some late nights lost in the maze that is the Grandmarc parking lot and others withering away in Clem cramming for exams.

There’s compelling evidence for the existence of the list. In fact, the Washington Post included scans of some of the documents (there’s a link to them at the end of the Post article). The idea that children of current and potential donors are given certain consideration during college admission is not a new one. UVA isn’t the first selective university to be called into question for this either.

Schools deemed to be “most selective” have historically associated themselves greatly with students that come from affluent families; but correlation by no means implies causation.

I am grateful to the donors of this public university that I know and love, regardless of their intention. Contrary to archetypical sayings, higher education comes at a price, one that not everybody can afford. I know I couldn’t if it hadn’t been for scholarship money. So I like to think that donations to the University, though potentially giving an advantage to students who come from wealthy families, first and foremost make both physical and monetary resources available to the entire student body.

There is no definitive evidence that the “watch list” actually impacts the Office of Admissions’ decisions. So to claim that admission can be bought isn’t entirely warranted. Some may argue that it’s rather entirely unwarranted. As for the prospective students whose admission may or may not be swayed by closed-door factors, it comes as no surprise that having connections has its benefits. The correlation then, is unsurprising.

Back in high school, it used to anger me that someone with money or with a legacy status  could get into a school when I spent virtually four years glued to textbooks. But that’s not a fair assumption to make; implications of correlations are hard to prove. Quite honestly I’m tired of trying to. At the end of the day, I’m happy I’m here and I’m going to make the most of my time here.

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