But the scandal goes beyond just these issues. It’s also a searing indictment of the value of an elite college education in the first place. None of these parents seemed remotely concerned about whether their kids could hack it once they got into their dream schools — and rightly so.

In his book “The Case Against Education,” George Mason economics professor Bryan Caplan makes a compelling case that most of the value in diplomas from elite colleges isn’t in the education they allegedly represent but in the cultural or social “signaling” they convey.

Imagine you’re deposited on a desert island, forced to fend for yourself. Would you rather have the knowledge that comes with taking a survival training course, or just the piece of paper that says you took the course? Obviously, you’d rather know how to identify poisonous plants and sources of water than have a diploma that says you know how to do things you can’t do. Now, ask yourself: Would you rather have the Yale education without the diploma, or the diploma without the education?