College Admissions Scandal Elicits Various Responses

Bribery Scandal Shows Iniquity in Admission Standards

Sam Plunkett, Sports Editor, Junior

Applying to college can be one of the most stressful events a high school student goes through. Teenagers nationwide spend hours-on-end studying for SATs, ACTs, building a solid GPA, and creating a resume of community service and extracurriculars that will make them seem like the perfect college candidate. So, when the Department of Justice uncovered dozens of cases where parents used their wealth to pay their children into prestigious colleges, many were justifiably furious. In March, the D.O.J charged thirty-three parents for college entry fraud. Big-name schools including Yale, Georgetown, U.S.C, Stanford, and U.C.L.A., and most recently Harvard, were accused of accepting bribery from these parents.

The incident seemed to be yet another example of the entitlement of those who have the ability to buy their way into anything they want. Among those indicted in the FBI’s Operation Varsity Blues were actress Lori Loughlin and Academy Award nominee Felicity Huffman, both of whom were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. Loughlin in particular, paid off the University of Southern California to make it look as though her daughter was an experienced member of a crew team. Huffman, on the other hand, is said to have made a $15,000 payment that allowed one of her daughter’s SAT scores to be altered, in order to achieve a higher score. According to the Los Angeles Times  and the Department of Justice, total payments from all of the discovered cases adds up to about $25 million. Andrew Lelling, a US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, called the scandal the “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the D.O.J.

The mastermind behind this scandal is Rick Singer, CEO of  Key Worldwide Foundation and The Edge College & Career Network (known simply as “The Key”). Singer started The Key as a way to help the students fabricate their SAT and ACT scores. The two branches provided specific services: LLC the Key, dealt with college counseling and test services, while The Key Worldwide Foundation funnelled in payments from parents, then used the funds to bribe college coaches and administrators. Singer has been cooperating in the investigation and has admitted to his role in the scandal.

As a community of high school students, teachers, and administrators, many Pelhamites were angry when the story broke.

Mr. Eugene Farrell, the head of guidance at PMHS, said, “It is disappointing to hear. The process is already so difficult. There needs to be more integrity in admissions offices.”

The Pel Mel conducted an anonymous poll of juniors and seniors to ask for their response to the admissions scandal and responses ranged from anger to resignation. 33 percent felt that the incident was “No big surprise. Money talks! Affluence=Influence,” while another 38% felt that, though the parents involved were probably motivated by the best of intentions, “It doesn’t matter — they did something immoral, unethical and illegal!”  One respondent to the poll wrote to say “This news is frustrating, but these celebrities are not the first to bribe schools into admitting their children. Almost anyone who donates large sums of money to schools is doing so to sway the admission boards into admitting their children too, but none of this is reported because it’s technically legal.”

Regardless of how one stands on the issue, prosecutors are focusing on those who are using illegal methods to give their children an unfair advantage. As this case continues to develop, it seems that this may just be the tip of the iceberg in the college admission scandal.