Regarding the March 13 front-page article “50 charged in college bribery scam”:

The revelation that university officials allegedly accepted bribes for admission is a manifestation of a more systemic phenomenon: Our top colleges are not meritocratic; they merely reproduce existing structures of wealth and power.

Wealthy applicants benefit from the admissions process in myriad ways, from being able to afford to take SAT prep courses and access college counselors to having time for extracurricular activities. At Georgetown University, which I attend, nearly a third as many students come from the top 1 percent of the U.S. income distribution as the bottom 60 percent. Georgetown admits legacy students at twice the rate of other students. These students often leave Georgetown for high-paying finance and consulting jobs, multiplying the wealth that enabled them to attend Georgetown in the first place.

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For middle- and low-income students, lackluster financial aid at elite colleges limits futures; my substantial student debt makes it irresponsible for me to consider postgraduate education or the lower-paying but socially beneficial jobs Georgetown encourages its graduates to pursue as “men and women for others.”

Those who illegally leverage their wealth for their personal benefit must be held accountable. However, we must also work to address the quotidian but no less insidious role that elite universities play in perpetuating socioeconomic disparities.

Alexandra Kurland, Washington

We recently learned that the president’s proposed budget recommended cutting $8.5 billion from the Education Department [“Billions more sought for wall,” front page, March 11]. He would do this, in part, by ending subsidized loans and ending loan forgiveness for public-sector workers.

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Then we learned the Justice Department was charging affluent individuals involved in a “multimillion-dollar bribery scheme” that allegedly allowed their children to buy their way into prestigious undergraduate institutions such as Yale and Stanford universities.

Working-class and impoverished families, whose children know firsthand (as I intimately knew) the incredible work of public servants in government and nonprofits, and who might consider low-income careers to “pay it forward,” now face a private-sector scandal of corrupt wealth and a president who wants to place a lid on opportunity. 

President Trump oftentimes bemoans what his allies call “a two-tiered” justice system. It is not surprising that the son of affluent parents who streamlined his path to Wharton never bemoans a two-tiered American Dream.

Juan Palacio Moreno, Allentown, Pa.

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