Authorities have indicted 50 people–including 33 wealthy parents–for a massive scheme of fraud in order to get their kids accepted into elite universities.
Following the advice of a college exam tutorial company, the parents would do things like hire someone else to take the SAT for their child, bribe SAT proctors to change their answers, pay college coaches to claim the child is an athlete being recruited, bribing college officials, and on and on.
The parents paid between $200,000 and $6.5 million to get their children accepted to Yale, Stanford, USC, Georgetown, and other high-status schools. Among the indicted were Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman (Academy Award nominee and star of “Desperate Housewives”) and Lori Loughlin (Becky in “Full House”), as well as CEOs, a fashion designer, and the head of a global law firm.
From the indictment:
6. Beginning in or about 2011, and continuing through the present, the defendants — principally individuals whose high-school aged children were applying to college — conspired with others to use bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to colleges and universities in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere, including Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, and the University of California-Los Angeles, among others. Evidence I have reviewed shows that the scheme included the following:
a) Bribing college entrance exam administrators to allow a third party to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams, in some cases by posing as the actual students, and in others by providing students with answers during the exams or by correcting their answers after they had completed the exams;
b) Bribing university athletic coaches and administrators to designate applicants as purported athletic recruits — regardless of their athletic abilities, and in some cases, even though they did not play the sport they were purportedly recruited to play — thereby facilitating their admission to universities in place of more qualified applicants;
c) Having a third party take classes in place of the actual students, with the understanding that grades earned in those classes would be submitted as part of the students’ college applications;
d) Submitting falsified applications for admission to universities in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere that, among other things, included the fraudulently obtained exam scores and class grades, and often listed fake awards and athletic activities; and
e) Disguising the nature and source of the bribe payments by funneling the money through the accounts of a purposed charity, from which many of the bribes were then paid.
This is being described as the biggest college admissions cheating scandal ever prosecuted. I suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg, that such practices have been going on for some time and are widespread, with more complicity on the part of university administrators than has yet been nailed down.
This is another example of the corruption of higher education in this country. The value of an education for some students and their parents is simply a matter of social status. Not learning, not growing, not attaining knowledge or skills–just joining the ranks of the “elite.”
And, evidently, being accepted into the “elite” universities gives a person enough social cachet to get the prestigious jobs and to enter the upper class apart from any genuine merit or academic attainment.
What does it tell us about these schools that someone with a low SAT score–but money enough to pay someone smarter to take the test for her–can attend one of these super-selective colleges? One would think that an unqualified student would flunk out of a course of study characterized by academic rigor. Parents didn’t see a need to be worried about that, and, since the scheme has been going on since 2011, at least some of the students must have had successful college careers (something that might also need looking into).
We can see how much higher education meant to the Loughlin daughter as she talks about her plans for USC:
“I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend, but will talk to my deans and everyone,” Olivia said while describing how she will balance out her busy schedule.
As for what she was looking forward to in college, Olivia said she really wanted the “experience of game days” and “partying,” before admitting, “I don’t really care about school, as you guys know.”
Illustration via Pixabay, Creative Commons License