Money, money, money. It brings out the best and the worst in people. At Alabaster, it's simply a given that money and wealth are flaunted around, because many of the students come from highly affluent backgrounds. That means that in this world, wealth often equals status. Even at fifteen and sixteen, the characters are impressed with each other's backgrounds—so-and-so's dad runs this company, or that so-and-so's family inherited that industry. That's what makes folks like Elizabeth Heywood stand out so much:
Frankie knew that Elizabeth had earned the money that was putting her through Alabaster […] so she differed from her fellow students in the way that new money differs from old. (15.2)
The school is swimming in wealth—even the folks who stand out, money-wise, are still filthy rich. And that means that money is nothing to these students, as it becomes clear when Frankie plans her pranks and gets the students to order everything on their credit cards:
The necessary Internet purchase tasks have been distributed broadly among those of you who have bottomless credit cards. (33.10)
Moolah, dinero, dolla dolla bills, y'all. No matter what you call it, it's clear that cash allows the more moneyed students to enter the top tier secret society at school—the Loyal Order of the Basset Hound. The students who come from old money Basset families (where their fathers, grandfathers, and other relatives have been inducted) are the ones more likely to be "tapped" to join the club. Which means that the whole enterprise just perpetuates the separation between the old elite and those who aren't worthy.