Want to get into college but don't have the best grades? Consider making friends with some prominent politicians, then apply in Illinois.
Earlier this month, The Chicago Tribune revealed the existence of a special admissions list at the University of Illinois main campus that consisted of politically connected applicants. Now, records from University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University have been subpoenaed in the ongoing federal investigation of corruption charges against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Investigators want to determine whether Blagojevich recommended candidates for admission into state colleges in exchange for money or favors.
While going for the wow factor of a big name is an understandable strategy when it comes to letters of recommendation, it looks like more may have been going on with some applications in Illinois. There are concerns that some well-connected applicants received extreme advantages in admissions, in some cases getting in seemingly solely based on who they knew, even over the objections of the admissions officials reviewing their college applications. The University of Illinois has suspended its special admission list and claimed to have not followed practices out of line with what other colleges do in considering applications.
The practice of relying on political connections in the college application process is not unique to Illinois, but in light of recent scandals in the state, it is garnering a lot of attention. Using clout to get into college is still a highly contentious practice in any case, whether the applicant is connected to university officials or state government figures. Hopefully, this scandal will influence colleges to think twice before overlooking merit in favor of connections in future admissions decisions.