By Maya Page
The massive college admissions scam has been headlining the media over the past few weeks, attracting negative attention to elite universities across the country.
Federal prosecutors have charged over 50 people for their involvement in the college admissions scandal, including Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Charges included cheating on standardized tests and bribing college coaches and school officials to accept children of wealthy families.
William Rick Singer, CEO of a college-counseling firm, is at the head of the scheme. He pled guilty to four charges and admitted to being paid about $25 million by parents to help their children get into colleges.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling described the two kinds of fraud that Singer was selling. One service was to cheat on the SAT or ACT with a third-party person taking the test in the student’s place. Parents paid between $15,000 and $75,000 for this.
The second service uses Singer’s connections to bribe Division 1 coaches and create fake athletic credentials for students. Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly paid $500,000 to have their two daughters attend University of Southern California. They were accepted as crew team recruits, even though neither one ever competed in crew before.
Singer’s business is to help the wealthiest families in the U.S get their children into elite schools. Children that come from wealth, or celebrity parents, are already born with great privilege. Being accepted into an Ivy League or top-tier school through cheating just paves the way for even greater privilege that most people work hard their entire lives for. This scandal is just a reminder that the power of money makes it so easy to cheat your way through life.
Attorney Lelling said, “For every one student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.”
Although Singer and the others charged in this scheme are under fire for their actions, there is a bigger story here than just this ring of celebrities. It proposes the question: What is the line that parents are willing to cross when their children are applying to college?
There are many other legal ways in which wealthy families impact their children’s admissions process. However, just because it is legal, doesn’t make it better than what Singer’s clients did.
Andre Young – also known as Dr. Dre – a wealthy rapper and record producer recently took to Instagram to gloat over his daughter’s acceptance to USC. He made a joke referring to the current admissions scandal by captioning the photo, “My daughter got accepted into USC all on her own. No jail time!!!!”
Although Dr. Dre may not have paid someone to cheat on his daughter’s SAT, or bribe a coach, his wealth and status could have played a major role in her acceptance. In 2013, USC posted a press release stating that Dr. Dre gave $70 million to create the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. Having a whole academy named after himself must have given a bit of leverage over his daughter’s application.
Tons of wealthy alumni from Ivy Leagues like Harvard and Yale, make continuous donations to their alma maters. When their kids grow up and follow in their parents’ footsteps, how much do officials factor in connections to major donors when looking at an application?
According to Inside Higher Ed, 42 percent (nearly half) of private colleges and universities take into account whether an applicant’s family members attended that school. When Harvard University went on trial last year for their admission processes, they defended using legacy admissions because they claim it helps the school connect with alumni, who they depend on for financial support.
This college admissions scandal is one part of a larger problem within educational inequality. There are many students from low-income families that work extremely hard to get accepted into their dream school, but are still denied. Privileged children coming from a legacy, or wealth are taking up spots that other students deserve. It is a trend throughout the country designed to make the rich, richer.
Hopefully the intensity of this scandal will shine light onto the bigger issues at hand and correct corruption within the system.