U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., spoke Thursday with Portland high schoolers about a bill he’s working on that would end tax breaks for college donations, given by parents with children who are enrolled or applying for admission.  

Wyden’s legislation comes in the wake of a college admissions scandal in which celebrities and other upper-class parents used bribes or cheating to get their children into elite colleges.

He spoke to a group of seniors at Madison High School in Northeast Portland about the legislation.

“I’m looking at you guys, and you’re going through the process now. You played by the rules. You’re sweating how you’re going to pay for [college],” Wyden said.

“And then you read the news and you see splashed all over that well-to-do people can grease the skids, hot-wire the system and get a big advantage because the system really is tilted towards the most affluent people in our country.

“So what I can do is I can end the tax payer giveaways that help the wealthy,” Wyden said.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., speaks with high school seniors at Madison High School in Portland, Ore., Thursday, March 21, 2019.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., speaks with high school seniors at Madison High School in Portland, Ore., Thursday, March 21, 2019.

Meerah Powell/OPB

Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said he’s not looking to limit the amount of money people can donate to higher education, but he is looking to take away tax perks from big donors.

“I don’t think the federal government ought to just perpetuate this rotten system,” he said to the students.

The students at Madison High School come from working-class families, Wyden said.

“To me, it’s just a double-standard question. I don’t see very many students at Madison having families being able to give them that kind of advantage,” he said.

Wyden has not yet officially introduced the bill, but plans to soon.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify what the bill would do.