Exorbitant admissions consultant fees highlight a college-obsessed society

A college admissions consultant is suing a mother for the other half of her $1.5 million contract to help her daughter apply to seven boarding schools and 22 universities. Buoi Thi Bui apparently only paid $750,000 of Ivy Coach founder Bev Taylor’s exorbitant fees and stiffed her on the balance.

Bev Taylor states in her website biography that she only works with three students every year, which makes sense considering her rate. Most independent consultants charge anywhere between $85 to $350 an hour, causing many critics to attack the Ivy Coach for its astronomical fees.

The company recently responded to the attacks with a blog post stating: “We appreciate that our fees are high … The parents of our students appreciate that it is worth investing to help their children earn admission to an outstanding school when they’d otherwise earn admission only to a pretty good school.”

The New York Post reports that Bui’s daughter was accepted into an exclusive prep school in Pennsylvania and received early admission to Dartmouth.

Yet the question remains: Is the difference between attending an “outstanding school” and a “pretty good school” really worth $1.5 million? Is it even worth a fraction of this fee? About 40 percent of 25- to 29-year-old workers had a bachelor’s degree in 2016, yet 51 percent of millennials report being underemployed.

Is the slight edge of an Ivy League degree going to make or break a student’s career trajectory in today’s world? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

With student debt on the rise, more Americans than ever before are questioning the value of a four-year college degree. Only 49 percent of Americans believe earning a four-year degree will translate to a good job and higher lifetime earnings. Meanwhile, high-paying blue-collar jobs remain open as many students graduate with worthless degrees and overwhelming student debt.

Still, some parents hold college in such high regard that they will do anything to make sure their student gets a degree from the most elite institution possible. This lawsuit has not only exposed the ridiculous hoops some people will jump through to get their kids into elite colleges, but the level to which our college-obsessed society has driven this industry.

The social status of being a college graduate has come to mean far more than the actual return on investment of a college degree, and that status alone has become invaluable to wealthy parents who want to ensure their children’s success.

Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is a freelance journalist in California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America’s Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.