NACAC Discusses Bribery Scandal in New Podcast

The Phi Beta Kappa Society hosted a special extended episode of their Key Conversations podcast this week all about the bribery scandal.

Fred Lawrence, the secretary and CEO of Phi Beta Kappa, Andrew Flagel, a vice president at the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and David Hawkins, NACAC’s executive director for educational content and policy, spoke about the issues the recent scandal has brought to light.

Hawkins talked about the perception issue and discussed the strain the scandal will put on relaying information about college admission to the public.

He also brought up the term “broken system” in the 40-minute podcast. Hawkins shared his view of this term and the areas where he believes there needs to be change in the wake of this scandal.

“So, as we look at the problem that this has really drawn out, we’re looking at three broad levels of conversation, and recommendations, and places where we need to consider a serious change. The first is a broad policy level. When I hear the phrase, and I do hear it fairly often, ‘the admission system is broken.’ You have to break down what is admission, because as we know, most schools are actually quite accommodating for students. So, what are we talking about when we talk about admission? What is a system? There is no system of higher education in this country. We have a market for higher education. Some states have systems, but this is not a system. So, we have to define what we mean by system.

And then ‘broken.’ We have to define what we mean by broken. At the systemic level, there are inequalities. There are inequities in almost all phases of education. From when a kid comes home from the hospital, they already are born into inequity. And it starts the first day they walk into kindergarten. And it continues right with them through the college admission process, whether it’s the fact that their parents decided what neighborhood to move in because they felt like that had the ‘best schools,’ all the way up to being able to purchase test preparation coaching. And this is, of course, completely legal, but we have to understand what policy ramifications those decisions have. So that’s one big level.

The next level is at our institutions and at the system level where there are systems in states. Why do we have the admission policies we have? And frankly a lot of the debate, the angst, that we’re talking about at the level of this scandal is about those very deliberately exclusive institutions. So, there are questions we have to pose at that institutional level. And then finally at the individual level, we have to ask ourselves as college advisors and college admission officers, what are the things that we individually do or don’t do that could be affecting access to higher education? And I think we have to think more carefully about how we talk to the public about how we stress the message that college is actually quite attainable from an acceptance standpoint at the vast majority of colleges, and have a conversation about the kinds of reassurances and the kinds of work we have to do to really roll up our sleeves and talk to people in a meaningful way.”

This episode can be found on all major podcast platforms and online.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at

2 thoughts on “NACAC Discusses Bribery Scandal in New Podcast”

  1. Ashley, I would like to see or hear the entire podcast, but when I clicked online, it said, “It looks like nothing was found at this location. Maybe try a search?” How do I get to the full podcast?

    Thanks, Nancy

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