As the details of the celebrity college admissions bribery scandal involving Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin continue to emerge, an article in The Guardian from 2016 by author Daniel Golden is garnering a lot of attention. That’s because it discusses Golden’s book about how the ultra-rich get their offspring into prestige universities – offspring including Jared Kushner, presidential son-in-law and senior White House adviser. The book, The Price of Admission, looks at the “grubby secret” of college admissions for the wealthy and well-connected, namely that a sizable donation to a prestige school can often get a university’s admissions board to take a creative approach in how they assess an applicant’s suitability to enter their school.
Specifically, Golden talks about how Charles Kushner, a New Jersey real estate magnate, made a tax-deductible contribution of $2.5 million to Harvard shortly before his son Jared was admitted. At the time, the school – widely regarded as the most prestigious of all the Ivy League universities – only accepted around one out of every nine applicants. Today that rate is more like one out of 20.
And if the amount and the timing of the donation don’t raise eyebrows, Golden’s interviews with officials at Kushner’s high school should.
“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” said one official at the Frisch School in Paramus, N.J. “His GPA [grade point average] did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it.”
“We thought, for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted.”
Kushner, his family, and representatives for the family-owned business the Kushner Companies have long denied there was any connection between the massive donation and Jared’s admission to Harvard, saying the suggestion “is and always has been false.”
Regardless, it goes to show that the current scandal surrounding Huffman, Loughlin, and around 40 other parents who were using less-than-legitimate means to try to get their kinds into top-tier universities are hardly alone. Indeed, just in Harvard’s case, Golden’s research showed that of the 400 or so ultra-wealthy listed on the school’s Committee on University Resources – a who’s who of mega-rich donors – over half had at least one child attend.
One other point of intersection between the tales of Kushner and the current brouhaha: Should Huffman and Loughlin be convicted of felony crimes in the investigation of the scandal, they will find themselves in the company of Kushner’s dad and Harvard benefactor Charles Kushner, who was sentenced to two years in federal prison for tax violations, witness tampering, and illegal campaign donations.