The Broken Doors of Higher Education: Money Changers in the Temple

Published 6:31 pm Monday, September 25, 2023

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Peer behind the ivy-covered walls, and you’ll discover a rigged system overflowing with dirty money. A scheme engineered to consolidate power and prestige among the privileged few. An elaborate racket where delicate social dances hide the rather straightforward pay-for-play dynamic. Author Sahaj Sharda lifts the veil on the corrupt underbelly of higher education in his incisive new book: The College Cartel.  

The author witnessed firsthand the immense pressure placed on ambitious high schoolers, many of them desperately seeking the golden ticket to an Ivy League education. For example, one student from the author’s high school fabricated acceptance letters from Harvard and Stanford to satiate expectations of greatness. In the press, this student was hailed as a “Genius Girl” – until the fraudulent claims came crashing down.

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But it’s not just students and parents conspiring to game the system. The most stunning deceit often comes from within. Sahaj was appalled by 2019’s “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal, which unveiled bribery schemes implicating top athletic coaches and administrators. Wealthy parents forked over millions to officials like Georgetown’s Gordon Ernst in exchange for reserved freshman spots. 

Varsity Blues validated Sahaj’s long-held suspicions about higher education. Admissions fraud wasn’t an aberration – it flowed directly from a system rotten at the core. One where status is for sale and seats at top schools go to the highest bidders rather than the highest achievers. 

Elite colleges deliberately restrict admissions to nurture exclusivity. They gatekeep the bridge to success, deciding who crosses over into the inner circle. And privileged families readily pay the outrageous tolls. Ironically, schools with multi-billion dollar endowments still gladly accept bribes in exchange for yet another swimming pool or biotech lab.  

The College Cartel makes the argument that it’s time to dismantle the crooked cartel of higher education. A system this broken desperately needs transparency. You can learn more about Sahaj’s campaign to reform the system by connecting with him on Twitter


  1. Are all elite colleges involved in these scandals?

There is at least some objectionable behavior at every elite college, whether it is pricing, admissions, exclusion, collusion, or corruption. 

  1. Is the higher education system entirely flawed?

Many of the necessary inputs, such as talented students, committed teachers, and world-class facilities, all exist in our system. The problem is that we’ve organized a political economy that has combined all these great inputs in the worst possible way. Restructuring the market can unlock a great leap forward. 

  1. What steps can individuals take to challenge the current system?

Protest, organize on campuses, support lawsuits, and run for office. A lot of this system can be restructured from a state capitol or from Washington.