The College Admissions Scandal: One Month Later

A little over one month ago, federal prosecutors charged over 50 people in the largest scandal of its nature to be prosecuted. The scandal involved many high-power parents paying large sums of money to get their children into college. The universities include Stanford, Wake Forest, USC, Yale, UC Berkley, and UCLA among other well-known schools.

Let’s recap—here’s what happened one month ago:

WHO: The leader of the scandal, William Singer, the parents who paid money to get their children into college, and the college athletic coaches who were bribed to help with the admissions process were all charged. The people charged include well-known names such as actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

THE SCHEME: The two main ways the scheme took place was to manipulate SAT or ACT exam scores or to falsely present applicants as student athletes.

  • The exams – the scheme would either have someone else take the exam, bring their own proctor that would help students during the exam, or have someone look at and correct the exams after they were taken.
  • Athletics – coaches were given large sums of money to vouge for students by saying they would be committing to play athletics for the university. This happened regardless of whether the student even played the sport and included doctored images and adding fake statistics and athletic achievements to their college applications.

THE CHARGES: The charges were widespread, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and wire fraud. Students were not charged but may still be expelled or have acceptances rejected depending on the decisions of the individual universities affected by the scandal.

So, what’s happened since then?

The ringleader, William Singer, has pled guilty to four charges.

Felicity Huffman and 13 others that were charged pled guilty. The charge was conspiracy to commit fraud. The plea most likely means that there will be no additional charges filed against them and that the prison sentences will be lenient.

Lori Loughlin and 15 others chose not to accept a plea deal and were hit with an additional charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have pled not guilty to these two charges. They could face up to 20 years in prison for each charge if convicted, though the sentence will most likely be less than this.

School responses have been most actively targeting coaches that have been charged or found to be involved in the scandal, placing them on leave or terminating their employment. Further, Yale University has rescinded admission of one student. USC plans to reject six students that have applied this year that are involved in the scheme, and current students that are potentially involved are currently unable to register for classes or access their transcripts.

It is unknown how widespread the scandal really was, how many more like it are currently in operation, and what the implications will be. Regardless, it is a shock and a clear depiction of the inadequacies in the college admissions process today, and it will be interesting to see if and how the flaws in the system are addressed and hopefully prevented in the future.