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tv   Nicole La Porte Guilty Admissions - The Bribes Favors and Phonies...  CSPAN  March 7, 2021 8:05pm-9:02pm EST

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book at the atlantic history center website
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. >> and then plays a role in the varsity blues scandal at georgetown university. so just to tell you about the night focusing on both books. >> so i want to talk to you about the journey of this book he started to plan this book within the days and obviously this is a fascinating story about every member a higher education story leading the news being extra and us weekly.
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there are so many juicy angles to the story that you decided to focus on l.a. as the epicenter of the scandal. what made it so interesting for the book? >> when i first started it was a week after the scandal broke. but the story is so sprawling there are so many parents involved. there are so many stories within the story and it but note cards down on the floor the very weak and if they needed to be turned around very quickly so i knew it i had to make it manageable and write a story and then to
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bring my unique vision because there were other projects in the work other people jumping on the story at first i didn't know l.a. was the way but it came out pretty quickly talking to parents at high schools in los angeles trying to get information about the parents involved in the scandal anyone who knew these parents and then i just kept hearing the same thing and at that point wasn't getting much on the actual parent it was real despair and fear and i'm doing everything is supposed to be doing and the kid is kept of the soccer team with a
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four.oh but yet we are being told and getting the sense that they cannot go to school that he or she wants to and talk about fundraising and then they are being sent a letter for a donation. and those is the ultimate veil and then the culture of fundraising but i don't believe in that kind of thing. there is an interesting subculture that people don't know about and to i'm hearing
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the context of the scandal you can understand the context and what these parents are feeling as well as the culture of pay to play. >> in the college admissions that something i saw in my book especially today's parents who went to college in the eighties or early nineties to get into the selective schools to think this is a much scarcer commodity and as a result leave pull out all the stops to get our kids into schools and these parents went a little bit about that.
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we have heard so much through the scandal and what interest me is when he was in sacramento and you point out it was that sacramento affect so what interests me is in l.a. it seems that you get into the social circles and things like that how did he end up infiltrating the circle so that he was so well known in so deep? it's an interesting character to come from another place and get into the social circles. talk about how he was able to get into those circles. >> contrasting with sacramento back then it was pure word-of-mouth and sacramento is a different vibe and
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culture and it was legitimate but he tried to get them in like the old-fashioned word-of-mouth and it just grew and was very organic in the the ceo of the financial institution and through his presentation was often hand on - - oppenheimer so not just the wealth manager to be very wealthy and you are being invited and here is this guy
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is it's a totally different tone you not questioning the legitimacy of anything coming with the seal of approval. in sacramento is giving presentations like hotel doll air so it was a completely different entrée and once there were enough of those connections and those circles. >> then opens the doors everywhere. interesting. >> it's interesting you're talking about parents but often it was the mothers heavily involved. and you mentioned in your book of the mother's insecurities. and my wife and i talked a lot about this not only during the scandal but the reporting for my own book because one thing i've always noticed reporting
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on colleges and universities your year tends to perk up went people talk about admissions would be in coffee shops and on the planes and it's always the mothers discussing these issues and really worried about their kids. how did singer played to the mother's insecurities? >> is not always specific to this scandal but and it's one of the schools where some parents show up and say they'll still end up at harvard. but was always the dads they
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put the emphasis on the school and the namebrand and then get the kid into usc in the narrative replays itself like felicity huffman and they talked a lot about that mommy guilt and they have been bad mothers and she always felt like she was working and didn't do enough drop-offs and pickups. and somehow this was going on in their mind that i haven't been here as much view as i was like but up until now i will make it up to you. i will get this done i will
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compensate. and woven into that is they are doing it for their kid they just want the best for their kid if they are going to go to the school make it happen. this is the sense of a mother who has failed in its an opportunity to make that right and jane for example going through a divorce as a single mom that you are an amazing mom and you do so much. he knew exactly what he was working with. >> please keep your questions coming. closer to the end that we will get to as many as we can. so to dig deeper into the mechanics of the scandal because it was huge in so many
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ways. but there were two aspects to the side door one was the testing piece and one was the athletics peace. your book dives into the coaches including georgetown and these tend to be anonymous and then you describe somebody like that tennis coach at georgetown and then as a bit sloppier so they were critical. the coaches were critical to that part of the scheme. it's not like you show up on a college campus and start saying who are the coaches?
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how did he find these coaches? >> he had been around and from then on it one thing that i learned after the book was turned in so some of this is not in the book and the water polo coach at usc is fighting the charge but knowing rick forever before it turned into a scandal whatever the walk on or the scholarship legitimately and i remember to
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raise this very even i have a goal aggressive and relentless person so through his legitimate work can know the lay of the land and the personality and know who would give. >> that's interesting. there so many people involved. this is a great book and page turner in so many ways. i kept marking all the names. you start to realize how wide the scandal was in terms of all the people. it seems like there is a lot of players all over the country. it went on for a pretty long time. how did it go on so long with so many people partaking? and then it falls apart. how did it not fall apart sooner? as you kept holding the
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strings? >> and those that says that best we can that rick singers at the hub. and then when rick talks to most of these people they never say it's a bribe. i don't think the word bribe was ever used because it's a thing going on. and then rick's operation itself accountant and paperwork but this loan guy
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running this huge organization and there was a group that was a little suspicious one of the favorite scenes in the book felicity huffman rights when they go to the high school so he goes to school. to confront essentially who is the high school counselor who was then skeptical and suspicious of those students so it seems to be a little widespread and so to describe
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the collapse and the students are really paying attention to the counselors. not just marymount but other high schools? i get the sense it's because the money and the power and those that are using the school counselors just don't have time to police them all? is that money and power? clearly there was suspicion on the high school part. >> i think it's both of those. that there is a strange dance for those that were hired outside the school and no one wants to really acknowledge each other based on the heads of schools they stop short of
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saying you cannot hire these people. parents are paying a lot of money you can tell them not to but they would discourage them or remind them how great their own counselors are and how they do know the kids. but not just at marymount but massimo wasn't just paying tuition but a big donor and it's hard for the counselor to say you are lying that is interesting because why there are these great details. but he's very careful with what he said but they cannot
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say to say i will relay what you are telling i will be the conduit. so having conversations with administrators and former administrators, a lot of parents treat this like a concierge service and the parents plan to it to some degree. >>. >> i had nothing to do with that it is totally public. >> usc to see that role there. and a little section and those
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were regional schools and actually there is a huge drop off of applications. and then to have all these people on their radar so it makes me wonder, couldn't the's parents just write a huge check to get in quick. >> you would think so in fact massimo was approached and and actually graduate from usc. >> he actually had a flat and was part of the fraternity when he took some classes but not actually enrolled. that they are approaching to say can we set up a tour? your daughter is about to apply we like to have one - - hope you and he dismisses them i've got this going on with singer.
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but then to convince seize people who are very powerful and wealthy that it was enough. but i will charge you so a lot of manipulation. >> it is interesting because the thing that i saw in my book around the idea of scarcity in particular, i really do want to and on the idea of prestige and scarcity so it's not just about getting into any school that a certain set of schools and it really gets into the idea it matters where you go to college even if you come from money and fame.
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so everybody thought even though they had all the privilege in the world to give them whatever they wanted but where they went to school mattered. does that sticker matters much as we think it does? >> whether it's the bumper sticker and that her daughter was embarrassed and didn't want to wear the sweatshirt there's a lot that speaks to it but there is a shift happening in those investment banks and what schools they tap into first.
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as people become more educated with the different types of schools and more books being written like your books and then to shape up not just adhere to the hierarchy that we subscribe to. it's interesting i did a story recently for ceo maverick carter and doing this a long time and i remember him saying i want to have a meeting with my executives are my employees to feel like everyone went to the same for schools on the east coast because i will never get an original idea out of that meeting. so a shift like that at the business level that the other
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industries but i do think there is a shift. >> it also has to happen that you get real data i spent a lot of time hiring people in one of the things they found is a kept losing the high-end graduates after a year or two they would go on our work at a hedge fund. so they brought in a person from mckinsey the first analytics officer which now a lot of companies are doing to get into the data of how they hire who survives and thrives that these firms there was 30 elements of those that really survived and thrived. one of the things they noticed is it didn't matter where you went to school thinking we can
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only hire people in quantitative mad majors did not much. music majors matter a lot. and with that analysis and then to restructure that calendar. and those comments mentioned in certain big law firms recruit in certain places but what was interesting to broaden the number of places they did recruiting but who did the recruiting? those that graduated from the schools. so they found somebody who went to harvard would go into another school and named and
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then trust the applicant so they way to judge them harsher and they would never get over the bar to get in so it was the analytics piece but then the people peace when they went to do the interview that could not get in. i get my parents think about this but also when he of millions of college graduates, 60000 may be graduating from the most selective schools in this country. we have more than 60000 good jobs. no doubt about it and it's that true definition of success then you probably should go to the highly selected schools but as i mentioned earlier in my book is the history of how we got to where we are with the selective schools i mentioned in the book, it used to
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be right in front me i interned at "u.s. news & world report". and the editor of the college drinking passed away his widow gave me on the rankings going back to the late eighties when they started on an annual basis. i picked up the 1991 addition and when you look at the acceptance rate of colleges you think they are typos because university of pennsylvania 1990 accepted 42 percent of students. almost half. washington university 62 percent. now they are under ten or 15 in most cases. why is that? they nationalized that i describe in the book they
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nationalized their recruiting in a way they had number four so somebody on the east coast going to usc seemed pretty far away. where your kids could text you all the time i remember when my sister went to college in the eighties. when the race went down but there was this concept of distance so you start to get the best students from boston and buffalo in miami. to the same set of ten schools now add the online applications now with the press of a button except for
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georgetown you can apply to ten or 12 schools it was so much easier. >> so there is one piece you are getting to that i think is so fascinating. i was not that aware of it but and also applying early nineties and you are good to go pretty much that now this gets back to the parents that were so frustrated and confused that is my a child
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have to be perfectly branded at age 15 that is such an unfair thought but happening on the college inside as a well-rounded class as opposed to the students. >> admissions has nothing to do with you. it has everything to do with the priority of the college. and those that excelled to build up the engineering programs. the same thing i saw when i was in michigan with those three institutions were athletics. and it's not division i they
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still have all the's teams to fill i remember sitting in one instance in the book not be excited about the applicant but the coach wants to fill the seat so it's all these priorities and you as the applicant and you need that difference but the other thing is a has to mask what they want. it just means they don't want more of whatever that is. >> overall it is a positive book. please me know college admissions office but yet you embedded yourself and were there for a year.
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so you get to see their perspective so i'm sure there are many parents why should you not be tearing your hair out? >> i started reporting this book before varsity blue. it would be interesting if it was the following you if the widows club would have done it first of all talk about selective colleges that basically under half of the students that apply there's only 200 but there are 200 not ten or five or 15.
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there is much less of a difference between number 20 and a number 40. and how you think of ten or 12 or 15 schools if you wind it a little bit more it is very possible to get into these institutions that have 8 percent but maybe 25 percent acceptance rate which is still really good if you compare them to and i know this after covering colleges for 20 years looking at the employer side is a lot of it matters what you do when you are there for crazy get into harvard and do nothing to get a harvard degree will open doors but not necessarily push you through everything in life is what you doing college matters a lot
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more than where you go. >> so to focus on a certain class of people some students went with not a lot of resources the guidance counselor wasn't up to speed but then you had a term in your book. >> they were the drivers these were the resources who get on and by junior year so just on the timeframe standpoint so to apply to college so you really
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see the divide talking about early decisions but then that is the biggest hair pulling out factor in all of this. now somebody asked a question for both of us that we both recognize if you can wave a magic wand what would that one thing be. i will answer first it plays into the question you are asking early decision was always a tool for those students who knew where they wanted to go. what it did starting 2008 during the great recession colleges started to say oh my god.
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we do know we could fill a class the let's try to login as many students as we can. before that 20 or 25 percent. almost half the class is coming in early. and then after that they never went back down so now suddenly students and parents got savvy and said to get in we have to apply early so more kids started to apply early and then look at the statistics it was so interesting to interview students at the highly selected high schools public and private but then say i am applying summer early i don't know where.
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something like where i really wanted to go to something i was trying to game the system to figure out where to get in. i don't blame them but college prep them for that. then i get rid of early decisions. that would never happen but that's what i would do. >> also a magic wand that will never happened. and then use that with all of those great things to change up the demographics a bit and those to offset cost to get rid of the scarcity issue needs to be more and i don't see why not.
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>> let's move on to some of the questions so which university would prevent this from happening in the future? what the parents do and who the children are. now that you have been through and inside how this happened how this happened in your reporting did these colleges change their process and then put a few things in place? from that system-level how do you prevent this from happening? >> the changes i saw in place were most specifically to do with athletics now there's
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more fact checking in the admissions people nobody was fact checking and in those many colleges there have been a lot of changes but i think the bigger systemic problem i don't think so. >> so maybe not allowing people to see who they are in the admissions process? i'm not sure that prevents rick finger because he was taking test for people that wouldn't help. >> have someone on the call here apparently i had this conversation with recently. this is her idea, not mine but you can do zoom interviews
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with the students maybe there's not enough in the admissions office but maybe you can it outsource that to trusted counselors to do the first pass at reading essays and somehow to see the student and interact with them for any amount of time is this kid serious does that seem like the type of kid that way dry on - - thrive here or slipping through the side door? >> some do alumni interviews thinking the matter most of the time they don't they taught us at emory they can open it up they saw there was the alumni interview they do that to make them feeling good to be part of the process. the process i wanted to take on in terms of to a key source
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are they telling us the truth? it's an interesting question. this is a question i got a lot last fall in my book came out. before the pandemic more than a thousand colleges were optional. university of chicago. and then during the pandemic 600 plus more selective colleges went test optional. so a lot of parents were suspicious last year. now almost through the entire admissions process for the first pandemic class when i talk to admissions dean's , they will tell me their applications without test scores are running anywhere between 25 and 50 percent.
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that's a lot even 25 percent is a decent amount. they are not through the acceptance yet but mostly running around that 25 percent of the class supply and may be 25 percent of acceptances are test optional. 's what this says to me is test optional but here's the problem working on the paperback edition trying to figure out in april when admission decisions are done how will colleges tell us they release the numbers? two things will happen if they release that shows test optional was high, they accepted a lot of students test optional what they will see next year is a huge rise in applications. they love those but not too many because they have to
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process. on the other side maybe they have a lot of applicants it will go back to the person asking the question you are not really test optional. you are telling us that you are but there are incentives not to release the number so we may not quite know the details from these institutions. >> the whole test optional thing. >> and i love that chapter in your book and this person who flew all over the country to
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essentially would fill out a fake grid and he word copy it over. so what is true about the sat, this person, his name is mark, he was a good test taker. >> out of a job now. [laughter] but that is the thing about the sat and act, they don't necessarily test what's in high school all the time. one of the interesting thing from director of admissions at georgia tech, a great stem school said 93 percent of test optional kids this year have taken and calculus or above in high school.
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the sat does not test calculus you can answer the questions better and faster but what he's saying is it doesn't give us a much better signal than a transcript because so many come with high achieving students with great records it doesn't do anything anymore. >> looking at the other questions we answer the question if this will change the system limiting the number schools and incoming freshmen could be a solution potentially i think. so one of the things i wanted to ask you around the whole book because the topic was in the news so much what
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surprised you in reporting the book what did you feel i didn't really realize that in all the news coverage immediately after the scandal broke? >> it's a lot of what we are talking about i was surprised at the frustration are at what college admissions had become you covered and had for a very long time but this was news to me in a lot of ways so my last memory was applying to college there were some similarities i found it hard to get into college but i was obsessed and that's all you can do back then and to game the system, should it change in
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the expansion of the whole independent counsel or field and that all the rules were being rewritten send your kid here and do this and do that there is a pretty good chance and all of that was rewritten. i get that. >> one other thing about the sat how hard you think this will be for colleges? even though most of them are preaching holistic commissions they are still very valuable even at first pass who was in that ballpark era to lose that very convenient number and will something replace it?
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>> i laugh because i'm not sure what can replace it that isn't just controversial and it's a test being so controversial yes i do think there will be pressure on colleges and universities to bring the test back. faculty control the process the case at the university of california changing its mind three times this past year. the faculties supported testing originally went to the regents then they moved in a different direction and then of course a lawsuit that changed a lot in the uc system. and faculty goes back to testing with the standards that have to be upheld there will be political pressure outside the faculty including
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lawmakers who believe there are standards with the test and among the private alums very similar with the debate the student loan forgiveness. i paid it at the same thing with the test. i took it and had to get into harvard or georgetown so there will be a lot of pressure. i imagine we will see have to schools do it. the other half they will not feel the pressure and go test optional because it's easier to get my applications for these to go back but not everyone.
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>> i will ask the nyu question mentioned readers for essays how is it possible they could read 100,000 applications? they do but most are given to her five minutes may be ten minutes. that was a lot this is organized in a way it comes in electronically, somebody is re- calculating the gpa, they see the transcript now they have committee -based evaluation they split inhofe a look at the same time and the essay and recommendations they are speed reading. one person reads while the other person looks at the transcript and will summarize as they are going. most of the essays mindnumbing
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lease similar that's they could really focus more less on one that they want to read and more that gives them a sense of who they are to be much more authentic. they read something in the essay book that ends up being the essay and is not authentic from the 18 -year-old prospective. so again i just finished nicole's book last week. i loved it. it's a page turner. anything we haven't talked about? >> so the solutions that you
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are proposing getting of the problem and one that constantly came up what is feeding the obsession and you were there as well. with that health if we stop drinking the schools? >> it would. you're in the magazine business also they make money. us news does not exist as a magazine but it makes money on the ranking colleges have tried to put stop participating it doesn't work. it's not that they are terrible but look what the rankings are ranking and what they are measuring 20 percent of the methodology in the final ranking is based on a survey of college credits if
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you think this is what another college president thinks then put a lot of stock in what percentage of faculty have phd's but as i point out in the book this is how northeastern try to gain the ranking to make all the classes under 20 just look better so that is critically important. any other final thoughts before we sign off? >> no. you need to read both of our books to see the frustration on one hand and then on the other. >> thank you so much. >> that was such and insightful talk. thank you to everyone submitting for questions and participating in the chat. it has been fascinating thank
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you for everyone who tuned in tonight please consider purchasing a copy of tonight's book it will take you to the website where you can complete your purchase a replay of the talk will be available after the broadcast ends if a friend cannot make it send them a link to the stream. to the stre. . . . .
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i am thrilled to be joined here by sara horowitz who is one of my favorite writers and thinkers on the future of work and especially of not only great writing and thinking but also the rare practitioner who's made whose madea difference in the rd and a whole bunch of different fields and i look forward to talking with her about some of that as well. the book is mutualism building the new economy from the ground up and welcome. thank you so much for being here. >> thank you for having me. >> i guess we have to start with the


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