Amid our nation’s student loan debt crisis, Rick Singer set up a fake charity so Hollywood’s wealthiest could buy their children’s college admission. Jokes on them though, because now they are paying for trying to cheat the system.

Well, sort of.

On Sept. 26, Stephen Semprevivo became the third parent convicted of involvement in the college admissions bribery scandal, which broke in March 2019. The Los Angeles executive paid $400,000 to secure his son’s spot at Georgetown University under the ruse of being a prospective athlete. He was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $100,000, according to CNN.

A couple weeks ago, actress Felicity Huffman, the first parent to be convicted, was sentenced to 14 days in prison for paying $15,000 so a college testing center in California would make corrections to her daughter’s SAT exam.

According to a Sept. 13 USA Today article, Huffman’s conviction also includes a $30,000 fine, supervised release for one year and 250 hours of community service.

“In all, 52 defendants — including 35 parents — were charged in the admissions probe,” NPR reports.

These fines would be crippling to most of us, but to millionaires, it’s clearly pocket change. As the convictions roll in, people across the country are upset and for good reason.

These parents bought front row tickets to the nation’s top-rated universities, stealing spots of legitimately qualified candidates, most from less fortunate backgrounds. It is a prime example of selfishness.

The convictions we’ve seen so far don’t compare to these crimes and I expect to see the same result with upcoming convictions. After all, with privilege, comes privilege.

But we can’t change what we can’t control and as the convictions roll in, and people continue pointing out how unfair it is, I feel an unexpected easiness. Today, I finally put my finger on it.

As upsetting it is that these parents are getting off with mediocre punishment, and that I’m sure this won’t be the last time someone cheats their way to success, I find myself smiling because I have something Lori Loughlin’s money will never buy: pride.

I’m proud of the high school grades and extracurriculars that earned me college admission. I’m proud of myself and of everyone who earned their acceptance letters fairly. I’m proud of my fellow first-generation college students who know what our degrees mean to our families. That pride, priceless and rewarding, far outweighs my anger over this situation.

I earned the privilege of looking back on all the weekends I spent in the back of a restaurant, doing homework between lunch rushes. I have the memory of walking across a stage, touching my degree for the first time and thinking how my father must feel right now.

As I sit at my desk, writing this column, my degree sits right next to me. It’s a reminder of the long weeknights, weekend sacrifices and daily discomfort of pushing past self-doubt I logged to earn it.

These admissions scandal parents are getting off with slaps on their wrists. They’re going to serve their short sentences and pay their mediocre fines. Their children will eventually go to college without planning around the monthly loan payments I do. They’ll continue living their lives.

But I’m going to continue living mine, too.

And I have something they never will.

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