By Dennis Shaughnessy
Who hasn’t read or heard about the “college admissions scandal”?
On college campuses like ours, this topic has been discussed and debated among students, with many wondering about the larger question of fairness in accessing affordable higher education and especially at highly selective private universities.
To the public, it’s just what the doctor ordered for a pubic that loves celebrity, and wealth, and celebrities and wealthy people that “get caught” cheating. The admissions scandal speaks to many of us about the practical costs of the growing inequality and diminishing social mobility that has come to define 21st century America.
While many celebrate low unemployment and a booming stock market, others of us are troubled by this new version of a “booming economy”. There are lots of jobs, but too many that don’t pay enough. While our classes examine the economic statistics and facts about inequality, there are three major findings that capture our attention more than others.
First, that about 40% of American households can’t handle an unplanned expenditure of just $400. These are employed people, perhaps two earner families and even multiple jobs for each, that have no economic security due to the costs of housing, healthcare, day care and more.
Second, the gap in life expectancy between the richest 20% compared to the poorest 20% of Americans has widened dramatically from five years to thirteen years over three decades ending on 2010.
And third, that more than half of all Americans believe that their children will be less well off financially in the future than they are today. In other words, the American dream that our children will live better lives than our own is very much at risk.
A great job market and a booming stock market apparently doesn’t translate into a healthy, secure and optimistic middle class.
Education is still the best tool to achieving our goals. So, when the already wildly successful “1%” made famous (infamous) by Bernie Sanders cheat their way into even greater success for their children, that really hurts. When hard-working middle class kids are denied opportunities because rich parents buy admission to elite schools for their children that runs contrary to so many of our core values.
Isn’t a level playing field for honest and hardworking young people the essence of the American dream? It will be a shame if that dream is diminished amidst this unprecedented period of wealth and income inequality in America.
Businesses and business leaders can and should play a role in insuring a level playing field, beginning with programs that support education and training so that not only employees but all young people in their communities can prepare for the jobs of the future. And CEOs, hedge fund managers and others in the “1%” should count their blessings…and stop cheating, too.