The New York Times has a story about how colleges might switch from admitting students based on race to admitting students based on income. But what would stop a traditional married couple from getting divorced prior to their children applying to schools? In The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley reported on Korean parents getting legal (but not practical) divorces in order to improve their children’s chances of admission to elite universities that had established preferences for children of single parents.
If two parents of a Harvard aspirant got a sham divorce, and only one of them had an income, the applicant could claim to be estranged from the high-earning parent and therefore be the child of a destitute family (this article says that the non-custodial parent’s income is not considered for calculating Federal and state financial aid).
A stay-at-home mother friend of mine often jokes about how if she and her husband would get legally divorced she could then obtain an array of valuable assistance from taxpayers, notably free health insurance and food (via SNAP or “food stamps”). Could the possibility of otherwise-impossible admission to the Ivy League for her children push her over the edge into implementation?
[Separately, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way notes that in the countries with high-performance education systems, there is only one way to get into a top college: score well on a national exam (a 50-hour essay-heavy test in Finland). Family background and wealth are not considered.]