An A+ Punishment for Felicity and Others: Create Cy Pres Awards

An A+ Punishment for Felicity and Others: Create Cy Pres Awards

Karen Gross 10/04/2019 5

Those pleading guilty in the college admissions scandal can donate large sums of money to a cy pres fund that benefits low income kids and the non-elite small colleges that serve them.

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

Folks, yesterday saw guilty pleas of a dozen or so wealthy parents and coaches for bribery, illegal money transfers across state lines, and tax fraud among other charges. Felicity issued an apology, seemingly sincere. She talked about the damage she had done. Key words: talked. Talk is cheap.

Here’s an idea I want to refloat: When we get to the punishment phase, I want to reiterate the idea of a cy pres award. Elite colleges were harmed. True. But the whole incident shines a spotlight in inequality in education and across America. And, ironically, the bribes ostensibly went to help low income kids. Yup, that’s the tax fraud part.

So have those pleading guilty do just that: donate large sums of money to a cy pres fund that benefits low income kids and the non-elite small colleges that serve them. Redistribute the cy pres to colleges with more than 40% Pell eligible students and/or 50% first gen students and under 1200 students and endowments under $10 million. Then use the funds for scholarships and institution sustainability.

The cy pres agreement would be part of a court ordered settlement and the distribution could be decided by a cy pres committee or designated court appointed official. Make lemonade out of lemons. Force these parents to do what they actually said: give to help low income students. Do good from bad.

This isn’t an unusual idea. It happens in class actions all the time, on the theory that dollars for wrongs done don’t actually compensate all those who were hurt. So who was hurt by the admissions scandal? Not a small group. But one group was the non-elite colleges and their students who were the named recipients of the fraudulent charity. Well, make that “charity” a reality and force monies to actually go to kids in need at colleges that serve them — those small non-elite colleges that are fading off the face of the educational landscape — the colleges that stand in sharp contrast to the elites which were the destinations of those bribed.

Just saying: justice can be done, at least in part. Do it.

A version of this article first appeared on Medium.

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  • Terry Peach

    Such an outstanding initiative !!!

  • Jason Stoker

    I could be wrong but this will never happen because they don't want to provide equal opportunities.

  • Randy Dixon

    We need more people like you

  • Suzanne Pepper

    Rich people do always find sneaky ways to get what they want

  • Adam Mccoy

    Powerful and emotional rant

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Karen Gross

Higher Education Expert

Karen is an educator and an author. Prior to becoming a college president, she was a tenured law professor for two plus decades. Her academic areas of expertise include trauma, toxic stress, consumer finance, overindebtedness and asset building in low income communities. She currently serves as Senior Counsel at Finn Partners Company. From 2011 to 2013, She served (part and full time) as Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. She was the Department's representative on the interagency task force charged with redesigning the transition assistance program for returning service members and their families. From 2006 to 2014, she was President of Southern Vermont College, a small, private, affordable, four-year college located in Bennington, VT. In Spring 2016, she was a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in VT. She also teaches part-time st Molly Stark Elementary School, also in Vt. She is also an Affiliate of the Penn Center for MSIs. She is the author of adult and children’s books, the most recent of which are titled Breakaway Learners (adult) and  Lucy’s Dragon Quest. Karen holds a bachelor degree in English and Spanish from Smith College and Juris Doctor degree (JD) in Law from Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law.


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