The Recent College Admissions Scandal Could Affect Students with Disabilities

Federal prosecutors announced this past March that there was a conspiracy concerning the admissions decisions from several American universities. More than 50 people were found to be part of the conspiracy coined as “Operation Varsity Blues.” A number of wealthy parents had paid a consultant, William Rick Singer, to fabricate their children’s records to help them get into prominent universities. Big names, such as actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were among the parents that were involved in this conspiracy. They paid universities large bribes and sent money to Singer in exchange for false test records considered in admissions, such as ACT and SAT scores. Some had their children apply as school athletes and bribed university coaches to recruit them, despite the fact that those children were not involved in sports. As for the test scores, it was found that Singer would have students take tests at private locations that would be overseen by administrators working with him. A third person would take the tests for the students, give them the correct answers to the test, or correct their answers after they had taken the test. Singer also helped the parents get extended time on standardized tests through fake claims of learning disabilities or bribing test officials. The methods that have been used in this conspiracy show that there is still a serious problem with the college admissions process. The news of this conspiracy questions the fate of many students with disabilities, considering the methods that were used in this scandal.

Accommodations are something that students with disabilities need to help them achieve at the same level as their nondisabled peers. The problem is that those accommodations don’t come easily for them, as they are required to submit paperwork proving they need accommodations. This process has been created to avoid fraud, but the recent scandal has brought problems that could affect students with disabilities. In order to get accommodations, students have to submit paperwork proving that they have a disability, and request what accommodations they need for the exam. That means they need to send in documents from doctors, specialists and other professionals that help them with their lives. This can be difficult for students with disabilities, especially ones that have learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADHD. Usually when people think about disability, immediately they think blind, deaf or in a wheelchair. Disability is a large spectrum, which includes learning disabilities. Unfortunately, learning disabilities are seen as ‘invisible,’ as there are people who believe that these students don’t have disabilities, and that they are lazy. Due to this problem, students with learning disabilities have to go through a lot of red tape in order to receive accommodations on their exams, which includes extended time.

That wasn’t the case for the children of the parents involved in this scandal, as they were able to get extended time easily through bribes and false information. If they were given extended time on the exam, they would be able to take the exam in a different room, which made it easy for their exams to be tampered with. These students were getting the extended time easily despite not having an actual disability. Singer bribed the officials and got false information from doctors in order to get extended time for students. Their parents have taken advantage of a system that was there to help students with disabilities. This kind of crime actually brings more backlash against disability rights laws, along with the fact that this scandal could erase all of the work that disability rights advocates have been fighting for. Students involved with Singer were able to get accommodations easily, while actual students with disabilities have to go through a lot of red tape to get their accommodations. Some of them may not be able to get the paperwork because their doctors may not believe them. The scandal has shown that students with disabilities are still at a large disadvantage, even after all these years.


Many students with disabilities deserve to go to college like their non-disabled peers. It gives them the chance to be independent and step out into the real world. Unfortunately, the real world is not catered for people with disabilities. They may need accommodations, but non-disabled people don’t easily recognize this. Inaccessibility could start as early as applying for college. Students with disabilities have to prove to colleges that they are capable despite their disability. Sometimes they will be upfront about their disability, which shows colleges that they are self-aware of their capabilities and willing to rise to the challenge. Other students with disabilities may not disclose their disability because they fear embarrassment or stigma. All students with disabilities deserve to go to college because they are human beings. They are capable despite a part of them not working normally. Once they go to college, they will need to get accommodations for classes or at their dorm if they stay on campus. Their professors need to be informed about their accommodations, but some may not grant them because they think the student is lazy or does not have a disability.


“Operation Varsity Blues” has not only shocked many people, but it has outraged many students with disabilities and disability rights. Their outrage is understandable, as the people involved in this conspiracy are guilty of using a system that was meant for students with disabilities. As time goes on, this conspiracy could affect the future of many students with disabilities. It could become more difficult for them to get accommodations for taking the ACT or SAT. They might be required to complete more paperwork than necessary. There is also the possibility that they may not be able to get accommodations at all, considering what went down in “Operation Varsity Blues.” Colleges might make it more difficult for them to get accommodations once they are in college, which is a serious concern. Students with disabilities rely on the system to help them survive, but how can they survive if there are people taking away the benefits that they deserve? There needs to be work done to resolve this issue, while avoiding more trouble that students with disabilities don’t need.

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