Can $2.2 Million Buy a Harvard Education?

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So can a Harvard education be bought? On some levels, yes, of course, what a stupid question. The school isn’t a charity. But the other side of the question is more troubling: Where, exactly, is the line between positioning a kid to get into a good university, and actually greasing the wheels with money?

The Globe lays out a story this morning of a couple from Hong Kong who hired ex-Harvard professor and speaker Mark Zimny, who runs IvyAdmit, an education consultant that helps kids get into fancy colleges.

The implication is that the Chows don’t understand the American higher education system, but they sure understand how things get done in America. They tried to buy influence. They threw money at their problem. They hired a lobbyist—only to find out that their lobbyist ended up not meeting their expectations, allegedly. The easiest remedy would be to fire the guy, but the couple wants to take it further: They want their money back.

Not likely. I can appreciate an argument like that made by Zimny’s lawyers, according to the Globe:

But a failed motion by Zimny’s lawyers to dismiss says the Chows’ agreement with Zimny was “nebulous.” It goes on to argue that legal blame should lie with the Chows because “common law counts do not serve as an insurance policy for poor judgment, avarice, or any other of many human failings.” In other words: caveat emptor.

Basically, it’s your own fault for being an unsophisticated consumer, even if you are rich. Maybe especially if you are rich.