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The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance Into Harvard

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The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance Into Harvard

Jared Kushner

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica. This story was co-published with The Guardian.

I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, said in an email Thursday that “the allegation” that Charles Kushner’s gift to Harvard was related to Jared’s admission “is and always has been false.” His parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, “are enormously generous and have donated over 100 million dollars to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes. Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honors.” (About 90 percent of Jared’s 2003 class at Harvard also graduated with honors.)

My Kushner discoveries were an offshoot of my research for a chapter on Harvard donors. Somebody had slipped me a document I had long coveted: the membership list of Harvard’s Committee on University Resources. The university wooed more than 400 of its biggest givers and most promising prospects by putting them on this committee and inviting them to campus periodically to be wined, dined, and subjected to lectures by eminent professors.

My idea was to figure out how many children of these corporate titans, oil barons, money managers, lawyers, high-tech consultants and old-money heirs had gone to Harvard. A disproportionate tally might suggest that the university eased its standards for the offspring of wealthy backers.

I began working through the list, poring over “Who’s Who in America” and Harvard class reunion reports for family information. Charles and Seryl Kushner were both on the committee. I had never heard of them, but their joint presence struck me as a sign that Harvard’s fundraising machine held the couple in especially fond regard.

The clips showed that Charles Kushner’s empire encompassed 25,000 New Jersey apartments, along with extensive office, industrial and retail space and undeveloped land. Unlike most of his fellow committee members, though, Kushner was not a Harvard man. He had graduated from New York University. This eliminated the sentimental tug of the alma mater as a reason for him to give to Harvard, leaving another likely explanation: his children.

Sure enough, his sons Jared and Joshua had both enrolled there.

Charles Kushner differed from his peers on the committee in another way; he had a criminal record. Five years after Jared entered Harvard, the elder Kushner pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax violations, illegal campaign donations, and retaliating against a witness. (As it happens, the prosecutor in the case was Chris Christie, recently ousted as the head of Trump’s transition team.) Charles Kushner had hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, who was cooperating with federal authorities. Kushner then had a videotape of the tryst sent to his sister. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

I completed my analysis, which justified my hunch. Of the 400-plus tycoons on Harvard’s list — which included people who were childless or too young to have college-age offspring — more than half had sent at least one child to the university.

I also decided that the Kushner-Harvard relationship deserved special attention. Although the university often heralded big gifts in press releases or a bulletin called — in a classic example of fundraising wit, “Re:sources” — a search of these outlets came up empty. Harvard didn’t seem eager to be publicly associated with Charles Kushner.

While looking into Kushner’s taxes, though, federal authorities had subpoenaed records of his charitable giving. I learned that in 1998, when Jared was attending The Frisch School and starting to look at colleges, his father had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard, to be paid in annual installments of $250,000. Charles Kushner also visited Neil Rudenstine, then Harvard president, and discussed funding a scholarship program for low- and middle-income students.

I phoned a Harvard official, with whom I was on friendly terms. First I asked whether the gift played any role in Jared’s admission. “You know we don’t comment on individual applicants,” he said. When I pressed further, he hung up. We haven’t spoken since.

At Harvard, Jared Kushner majored in government. Now the 35-year-old is poised to become the power behind the presidency. What he plans to do, and in what direction he and his father-in-law will lead the country, are far more important than his high school grades.

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump greets supporters along with his wife Melania and family during his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar



    1. I Am Helpy November 20, 2016

      OK thanks for the racism. You drink your own urine.

      1. dbtheonly November 21, 2016

        Welcome to the Trump Administration.

    2. The lucky one November 21, 2016

      Otto, I understand you’re being sued by the Association of Goats for demeaning their species.

  1. AgLander November 20, 2016

    What I’ve always wanted someone to find out is how Joe Biden, who finished last in his high school graduation class, then followed it up by finishing last in his college graduating class at Delaware somehow magically was accepted to the Law School at Syracuse University? (By the way, he finished at the bottom of his class there too!)

    1. Thoughtopsy November 20, 2016

      Nice attempted diversion. Again.
      It seems, on the rare occasions you manage to be on topic, that you only read the headline then pull something out of your hate-recorder… oh… I mean “memory”.

      1. AgLander November 20, 2016

        Diversion? Diversion you say?! Are you suggesting that “Slow Joe” was accepted on merit in to Law School at Syracuse without daddy Biden pulling out the checkbook and using the “greased palm” program to get his little dummy admitted? Biden was the academic class dunce in both high school and college you blind idiot!! How does that add up when it came time to apply to a very selective Syracuse Law? I don’t expect much intelligence to escape from the dark hole inhabited by alt-leftists here at National Media but sometimes I am newly amazed by the stupidity of you people!

        1. Thoughtopsy November 20, 2016

          Read the article.

          Or shall I bring up Palin your VP pick from a couple of elections back?
          Because apparently you can’t focus.

    2. I Am Helpy November 20, 2016


      Since you never finished high school, why do you feel qualified to opine on college admissions and grades?

    3. skilletblonde November 20, 2016

      What’s your point? George W. Bush was a drunk until the age of 40. He was a horrible student who gain access to Harvard due to his family’s connections. His business school professor,Yoshi Tsurumi, described him as a pathological liar among many other negative things. Yet, this idiot became the president of the United States. John McCain, a man who graduated 5th from the bottom of the Naval Academy, a man who cost the government billions in wrecked planes, a man who has shoved people on the Senate floor, almost became President. And please, let’s not forget he made the imbecilic Sarah Palin, his vice-president.

      1. dbtheonly November 20, 2016

        Didn’t Bush go to Yale?

        1. 1standlastword November 21, 2016

          The “c” student went to both Ivy league institutions because America is of the rich, for the rich, by the rich…phuck the People!!!!!!

          And that Trump and Kushner both got a boost from their privilege makes Trump’ presidency just another rich man’s game to keep America of the rich, for the rich by the rich.

          Many desperadoes are going to be sorely disappointed to see this happen to them again–


          1. dbtheonly November 21, 2016

            Having money beats not having money.

            Has there ever been a society in which this isn’t true? Because even in supposedly egalitarian societies, like early Soviet Russia, or the Apostolic Christian Church, it isn’t many years before the elites grab the money and the advantages money brings.

          2. RED November 21, 2016

            Yep, and then at some point the people decide to take some back. The only question is how? One is the way the United States used to do things, somewhat at least, by a more fair tax code and investment in the public sector and other things. The other way is not so good, at least not for the vast majority of people. And sadly I’m very worried that Trump is leading us down the that second road. And I think HRC would have also lead us down that same road, it’s just a matter of who gets us there quicker.

          3. dbtheonly November 21, 2016

            Very nice.

            Can you name me an example where “the people” have successfully “taken some back”?

          4. RED November 22, 2016

            Wow dude, do you know so little about your world? Even those in power know this truth. Let’s see there’s the American revolution, the French, the Russian over of the czar, the countless countries that overthrew their governments in the 90’s when the iron curtain fell, there’s Libya, Eygypt, Iran, and soon Syria. Don’t let shallow thought process make you think none of these were “successful. They were quite and overwhelmingly successful at overthrowing the powerful and the elite genius. And often after that comes chaos and a new scramble for power and that’s the fn problem!!

          5. dbtheonly November 22, 2016

            The American Revolution was hardly a “movement of the people”. The monied elites, traders, slave owners, maintained their property.

            Within 15 years, the French Revolution had produced a different crop of Princes, Dukes, and an Emperor.

            The Soviet revolution produced a different set of autocrats, but autocrats none the less.

          6. RED November 24, 2016

            Still don’t get it, huh? That’s the problem with small minded people who adhere to only propaganda regardless of facts to the contrary. I’ll say it again, maybe, try really hard, you can get it. It’s not whether they were successful afterwards or how long afterwards they were or were not successful. But yes they were very successful at overthrowing the establishment. Continue with your blindness and maybe you can help explain to the mobs how much better off they are with the establishment? That ought to be fun.

          7. dbtheonly November 24, 2016

            Propaganda? Facts?

            I’m pointing out that each and every one of these popular revolutions against the monied classes have failed. Success doesn’t matter?

            The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over thinking this time will be different.

            Dream your dreams.

          8. RED November 24, 2016

            Wow! Just so committed to your propaganda that you absolutely refuse to see anything else. So certain that you think you know so much and better than anyone that you give away how dense and ignorant you are. Once more genius, and I still doubt you will figure it out. We’re not arguing over what happens after a revolution or what was set up as a replacement for the previous ruling class. The point, genius, is the ruling class did change. When they cut off King Louis head in France, guess what they successfully overthrew their government. But you’re frigging dead set and indoctrinated with ur silly beliefs that you think and want to argue about what came afterwards and that’s not the frigging point! You think King Louis cared what came afterwards when they cut his head off? Or these new aristocracy that I also know was set up said “maybe we should go back to the king, and the old aristocracy.” Jesus moron, of course chaos comes after a fn revolution idiot!! That’s why it’s better not to have one. But you will have one when people become desperate and angry and inequality becomes to much to bear. And you can fn stand around all day and try explain to desperate, hungry, deprived people how the wealthy know so much better, see how that goes. Btw, your the wealthy know best is a crock of bs and is a product of being an ignorant American who knows very little about the world. I suspect you probably also believe the foolish propaganda that capitalism brought the greatest wealth ever to the planet, don’t ya? I’m certain you do. And Jesus was a gun toting CEO who taught raising quarterly stock prices and helping poor people was not for government to do, right genius?

          9. RED November 25, 2016

            Ok db, I went back and read some of your comments. And although I still think you have missed my point that yes revolutions successfully overthrew the establishment even though what they set up afterwards may have failed, which is debatable. But this comment is because I want to apologize for speaking to you like you were a sick Con. I try to reserve my derision and ridicule and disgust for those who are committed to the absolute ignorance of the Con ideology which will bring horrible consequences to our planet. I mis-identified you as a part of this group and for that I apologize.

          10. dbtheonly November 25, 2016

            I can be quite conservative. Among many, and in no particular order, I want to conserve:

            One person one vote.
            Quality free public education.
            Clean air and water.
            Affordable medical care for all.
            Open campaign funding.
            Enforceable laws against bribery.

            But apology accepted. And much thanks.

        2. FireBaron November 21, 2016

          Dubya attended Yale as a third-generation (it may have been longer) legacy. His Grandfather (Prescott Bush) had just retired as Senator from Connecticut.
          His time at Harvard was at Harvard Business School. At the time, it was well known as a parking lot for useless sons due to inherit their families companies. This was to give those same families time to make sure the company Boards of Directors had enough people with clues to keep the clueless scions from tanking the same companies when they took over.
          And, for the record, every company Dubya was involved in ended up tanking and had to be rescued by his Pappy’s and Grandpappy’s friends (i.e. folks who owed THEM favors). The only successful business venture he ever had was when he was the operating owner-manager of the Texas Rangers baseball team. They actually turned a profit under his control. Then he went and became “Guvner”.

    4. Dominick Vila November 21, 2016

      Joe Biden’s family were anything but elitist. There are many examples of under achieving children being admitted to prestigious institutions of learning. Syracuse University is not one of them. Sen. John McCain was admitted to the prestigious Naval Academy in Annapolis. He finished second from the bottom of his class, and would have been expelled had his Daddy not been a well known Navy Admiral.
      I am not sure I understand your point, other than being motivated by the usual hatred, regarding the tenacity of an under achieving middle class kid to go to college, and graduate.

      1. AgLander November 21, 2016

        What you’re trying to torturously explain away (simply because he’s a Democrat and supports your views on social issues) is that Joe Biden was a deadbeat student….a slacker, a privileged party boy who was moved along due to his family’s social status and (and generous check written to the building fund at Syracuse by his daddy).
        P.S. McCain did poorly academically AFTER he was accepted at the Naval Academy. Biden was the last in every class he was part of BEFORE he was admitted to Law School, so your comparison is beyond ridiculous….but then you already knew that.

        1. Bob Albin November 21, 2016

          Two wrongs have never made anything right. Enough of this sort of retort already!

      2. The lucky one November 21, 2016

        “I am not sure I understand your point, other than being motivated by the usual hatred” I’d say you understood ag’s point perfectly.

    5. johninPCFL November 21, 2016

      So Joe and Jared were BOTH recipients of White Affirmative Action, but only Joe is deserving of your hatred. Joe = Jewish, Jared = Trump.
      Got it.

      1. AgLander November 21, 2016

        The article was a hatred hit piece aimed at Trump’s son-in-law. Do you have problems with rebuttals to pieces intended to do nothing but sling garbage at a family the liberals got skunked by in the election and now resort to slinging slop as a last resort?

        1. johninPCFL November 21, 2016

          I don’t think that winning the popular vote indicates that HRC “got skunked”. You continue to display your hatred of democracy daily.
          I’m sure Donald and Vlad are proud of you.

          1. AgLander November 21, 2016

            Would you feel better if we gave Hillary a participation trophy? She ran a lazy campaign…she was home napping while Trump was appearing before crowds of 20,000…never taking a day off. He knew it was an election that would take hard work…..Hillary Clinton thought it was a coronation tour….she was WRONG and she LOST……by a lot!

          2. johninPCFL November 22, 2016

            I think you should learn the English language. The words used are different than Putin’s Russian transliterated into English. But it was a good attempt. Again, Vlad would be proud of you.
            During an appearance Trump complimented her on a hard-fought campaign, saying that she never gives up. So who lied – you or Putin’s Agent Orange?

  2. skilletblonde November 20, 2016

    Funny, they don’t sue over this type of Affirmative Action. Yet, it is the oldest, most consistent, and profound, system of so called quotas. Affirmative Action for whites has been the norm, in every institution in America, since the country’s inception.

    1. Dominick Vila November 21, 2016

      I would not call it Affirmative Action for whites. A more accurate term would be Affirmative Action for Under Achieving Children of the Elite. Money talks in the USA.

      1. FireBaron November 21, 2016

        Just like Dubya. Had not his father and both grandfathers NOT attended Yale, and NOT been “Bonesmen”, little Dubya more likely than not would have had to go to a community college someplace in Texas.

      2. 1standlastword November 21, 2016

        And because America has an enduring pattern of indulging privileged feebleness, pretending it’s honoring an illusive GREATNESS this country is condemned to destroy itself and all of its inhabitants–

        It is just a matter of time and with this current pending disaster time is surely running out!

      3. jmprint November 21, 2016

        That’s why we are over saturates with churches that are worth millions.

    2. Otto T. Goat November 21, 2016

      Kushner isn’t white, he’s jewish.

      1. jmprint November 21, 2016

        When did you stop judging by skin color.

      2. 1standlastword November 21, 2016

        Good Grief Otto!

        Your ignorance is massive!!!

        I usually laugh at your graphics but when you ‘risk’ using words to express yourself I often cringe with pain…often…Otto!

        White is not a race. It has been assigned a common place as a convention of speech as a race–unfortunately, but it is no more than a phenotype: the way people simply ‘appear’ upon observation.

        ex: Mulattoes have passed for white when it was advantageous

        Jewish is an ethic classification that defines a genetic type (genotype).

        Within the genetic pool of Jews there are Ashkenazi Jews (fair complected, sometimes featuring blue eyes). Then there are Sephardic Jews (darker skin and most often featuring brown eyes).

        Now, just like many of their bigoted American earth-fellows, some Jews are inclined to discriminate against there darker kinsfolk so you will find lots of bigots with a limited capacity for reasonableness and a lack of education regarding the peoples of the world making statements…like yours!

        Consider yourself informed.

  3. The lucky one November 21, 2016

    “the university eased its standards for the offspring of wealthy backers” That is obvious. Bush Jr. couldn’t have gotten into Yale without the Bush connections. What is amazing though is that so many people look at them as members of an elite while the only thing remotely elite about people like this is their family connections and their bank account.

    1. RED November 21, 2016

      Absolutely! the idea of meritocracy in this country is a ridiculous joke. And there could be no more of a prime example than Trump. Trump has failed so many, engaged in such disgusting and illegal activities that had it been you or I we would have been homeless except for our prison stay with but a fraction of the crap that sick puke has done!

  4. melisasmall November 21, 2016

    1 year have passed since I decided to leave my last work and that decision was a lifechanger for me… I started to work over internet, for a company I discovered online, several hrs each day, and I make much more than i did on my previous work… My last month pay-check was for 9k dollars… Awesome thing about this is that now i have more time to spend with my family… http://chilp.it/8d93f4b

  5. A Thinking Conservative November 21, 2016

    The only question left is when does this puss in the heart of our democracy go septic?

  6. ps0rjl November 21, 2016

    You would have to have been living on another planet not to know that the Ivy League schools have always admitted the sons and now daughters of the wealthy and important world leaders. It has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans. It is based on the child’s parents and how important or rich they are,


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