College admission scam involving elite universities comes to light

Jankhna Sura, Editorials Editor

Over 50 people were involved in what prosecutors claim to be the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted, involving elite colleges such as UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale, Georgetown and more. The scam allowed students to gain admission into elite schools by having wealthy parents pay to help their child cheat on standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, or by bribing coaches to recruit students as athletes, even if the student had no experience with the sport.

Hollywood actresses, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, are among the many parents facing charges, in addition to coaches of elite schools, SAT and ACT administrators and more.

The scheme began in 2011 and was orchestrated by William Rick Singer, the CEO of a company named The Key. Singer used two tactics: one to cheat on the SAT and ACT, the other to bribe coaches of Division 1 schools into getting kids into college by using fake athletic credentials. Singer disguised the bribe payments as donations to his fake charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, which he set up as a nonprofit.  Singer pleaded guilty to four charges and admitted to the actions, March 12, 2019.

Singer organized cheating on the SAT and ACT by hiring a third party, Mark Riddell, to take the test in place of the student or to change the student’s answers with his. This was done in secret and went “unnoticed” as Singer bribed test administrators. To get these test results, parents paid between $15000 and $75000 per test.

Felicity Huffman was involved of this method of fraud and was accused of paying $15000 to the fake charity to have a hired proctor correct her daughter’s answers on SAT so she could earn a 1420 score. Huffman was arrested and was released on a $250000 bond.

“I think that it shows what people will do to become successful. Especially with Felicity Huffman, her claims reek desperation. I believe that anyone will go to great lengths to become successful, but when you have the money and are able to bribe people so that you get what you want, that is where the line should be drawn,” said Lizzie Edwards, sophomore.

The second act of Singer’s scheme was to bribe coaches and athletic officials into recommending to admission officials that the child should be admitted into the school, regardless that the child did not play the sport or had fake athletic credentials.

Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer, allegedly paid $500000 to have their two daughters recruited on the University of Southern California (USC) crew team. Loughlin was also arrested and her bond was set at one millions dollars. Her daughter, Youtube star Olivia Jade is allegedly not returning to USC on her own terms after this scandal broke news. Huffman and Loughlin are both set to appear in court in Boston, March 29, 2019.

“Overall, I think that the college admissions cheating scandal is absolutely ridiculous. There are students who work their entire life to get into their dream school and people such as Lori Loughlin and Olivia Jade have money, and as surfaced from one of Olivia’s YouTube videos, she is only there to party,” said Edwards.

Around the U.S., students and parents are shocked and enraged, resurfacing biases that wealthy kids are able to cheat their way into college, taking the spots of less privileged students that have worked hard to gain admission into top schools. A group of students who were denied acceptance at these colleges have also filed a lawsuit against them, saying they would not have wasted their time and money to apply had they known the process was rigged.

“[This] may confirm what a lot of kids already believe, which is that the cards are stacked against them and hurdles for some groups are higher than for others,” said Trena Kirby, AP Government and Politics teacher at Athens Drive.

As of now, it is unknown whether or not more people were involved, if more charges will be pressed and whether or not the students involved in this scandal will be charged. However, investigations are still occuring.

“I hope [this] prompts a much-needed nationwide conversation about merit.  How does the ‘system’ determine who ‘deserves’ what? Why does money so often become a substitute for achievement?  And what does this do to the value of a college degree, when apparently so many people get into schools, many of which are ‘publicly funded’, when others with the same or better qualifications are left behind?,” said Kirby.