Justice Department Reveals Corruption in College Admissions

Georgetown University, one of the schools where a coach was bribed to falsify records.

Roman Boed(via Flickr)

Georgetown University, one of the schools where a coach was bribed to falsify records.


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On March 12, the Justice Department unveiled a college bribery investigation that sent shock waves rippling across the nation, leaving many Americans questioning the stability and integrity of the United States’ merit-based college admissions process. Dozens of America’s elites, including powerful CEOs and Hollywood actresses, were accused of manipulating the system and securing spots for their children amongst the country’s top-rated universities through blatant cheating and bribery.

 

At the center of the elaborate scheme was businessman William Singer, who was able to wield the wealth of desperate and rich parents as a means to abuse the weaker parts of admission systems and get their children into to the best schools around the nation. Through his Key Worldwide Foundation, which deceivingly claimed to help poorer students, Singer was able to disguise the bribes of privileged individuals as donations. From there, Singer had two main ways of following through with the arrangement- falsifying and improving standardized tests scores or using connections to D1 athletic coaches as a way to label students as potential recruits for sports teams, even though often the young adults did not play the sport at all. Through such methods, Singer was able to help students gain admission to prestigious schools such as Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown.

This is a case where they flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense, to cheat the system so they could set their children up for success with the best education money could buy, literally.”

— FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta

“We’re talking about deception and fraud-  fake test scores, fake credentials, fake photographs, bribed college officials,” clarified  Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, at a news conference this past Tuesday.

Among the many that utilized Singer’s organization was Full House actress Lori Loughlin, who paid large sums of money in order to have her two daughters identified as potential crew recruits for the University of Southern California team.  As a result, both of her daughters were admitted to the school. And while Lori Loughlin is a notable figure charged, at least 50 other people were identified in the scandal, making her situation a far from rare occurrence.

 

FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta publicly condemned the parents involved and commented on the investigation, termed Operation Varsity Blues, stating that “this is not a case where parents were acting in the best interests of their children. This is a case where they flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense, to cheat the system so they could set their children up for success with the best education money could buy, literally.”

 

Ultimately, the still-developing case casts light on an admissions system many now call broken and fraudulent, based more on special connections and economic status than on educational distinction.

 

The immediate effects of the scandal have been felt all across the United States. An overwhelming sense of doubt and mistrust has settled over the population as many begin to wonder the extent to which such corruption has infiltrated the educational system. Students from lower-income families, already placed at a disadvantage from being unable to afford the private tutors and courses the more fortunate can, find themselves in particularly vulnerable positions. In a matter of seconds, the dedication and hard work of such a student could be overshadowed by the riches of certain affluent individuals.

 

As Agent Bonavolonta frankly expressed, “…the real victims in the case are the hardworking students who did everything they could to set themselves up for success in the college admissions process, but ended up being shut out because far less qualified students and their families simply bought their way in.”

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