Applying to college is an extremely involved process, especially if the potential student has set his or her sights on one of the more competitive universities- particularly the Ivy League schools.
As the parent of a current high school junior, I can tell you that the admission process to more competitive schools can be intimidating to both student and parent alike.
An application to a competitive college typically requires an impeccable transcript, high scores on standardized tests, an impressive resume of activities, and glowing letters of recommendation from teachers. And sometimes, meeting all of this criteria still isn’t enough to gain admission to top-notch schools like Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Southern California.
Unless the parents opt to bribe the college to accept their child… which has long been, unfortunately, a thing. Or WAS a thing, until the law finally decided to do something about this devious little scheme. Finally, the justice system has taken notice of this unethical practice, & is refusing to stand by and let it continue unpunished.
The U.S Department of Justice recently launched an investigation, dubbed “Varsity Blues”, into admission bribes, and is now prosecuting 50 wealthy people for allegedly paying for illegal assistance to guarantee their children’s admission to competitive schools.
The scam was devised by a man named William Singer, who owns the Edge College & Career Network, a college counseling service. Singer did far more than “counsel” prospective college families, however; he accepted financial bribes -over $25 million- between the years of 2011 to 2018 from several wealthy families to ensure their children’s acceptance to the schools of their choice, regardless of the applicant’s athletic or academic ability.
Involved in the probe are two exam (SAT and ACT) administrators, one exam proctor, one college administrator, nine college athletic coaches, and 33 parents… including celebrities Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
(Yes, Aunt Becky from Full House paid $500K in bribe money for her daughter to gain admission to USC on a crew scholarship- I wonder if “Wake Up San Francisco” will be reporting on this recent scoop??)
Basically, parents paid bribe money to Singer, who then used his various contacts to fix test scores, arrange for students to take an exam alone with a proctor that had been paid off to assist the student on the exam, and to provide fake “athletic scholarships” to students that were not actually deserving of the scholarship.
An example: as reported by ABC News,
The head women’s soccer coach at Yale University was paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer. The parents of that student had paid Singer $1.2 million.
In the simplest terms, a student’s education was funded by a scholarship that she did not earn- her parents bribed the coach to offer it. And countless other potential candidates- REAL soccer players desiring to attend Yale and deserving of the scholarship- were denied because it was filled illegally.
And the irony is, parents with the kind of money that these bribes require could easily afford to pay for four year’s worth of college tuition. But that wasn’t enough, apparently. They wanted their children to attend the best schools- regardless of their child’s qualifications. So kids that ARE qualified, and perhaps in financial need of those very same scholarships, have been losing them to cheating, wealthy parents.
We all want to give our kids the very best advantages. But the difference is, most of us don’t cheat, lie, and bribe to do so.
And the saddest part? As United States District Attorney Andrew E. Lelling stated in a press conference Tuesday,
“The parents are the prime movers of this fraud”
In the vast majority of these illegal bribes, the children were not even aware that their parents had taken illegal measures to ensure their college acceptance. The bribery took place discreetly, sometimes disguised as a “charitable contribution”, as in the case of Felicity Huffman. According to the U.S Department of Justice legal case documents:
Huffman “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 … to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter.”
Charitable for her daughter, maybe, but illegal and unethical to the rest of us.
As far as the legal implications, the individuals noted in the investigation have been arrested (although Loughlin, supposedly in Canada, has not yet been apprehended) and charges are being filed. Although money can buy many things, it cannot buy a college admission- legally, anyway.
Andrew Lelling drove this point home when discussing the charges brought against those involved in this scheme:
There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and, I’ll add, there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.
Although the wealthy can provide their children with certain luxuries that the average family might not be able to provide, an ILLEGAL college admission shouldn’t be one of them. And based on the current investigation’s outcome, hopefully it won’t continue to be one.