Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So AbsurdRoundup
tags: higher education, academia, scandal, university, college admissions
ALIA WONG is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers education and families.
A coast-to-coast FBI probe alleges that a network of celebrities, business executives, and other powerful figures is at the center of a massive bribery scheme to secure admission into some of the country’s most elite colleges, according to court documents unsealed earlier today.
Among the defendants are nearly three dozen parents whom federal prosecutors are charging with conspiracy and other crimes for allegedly using hefty sums of money to get their children into schools such as Yale, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California. Specifically, the newly unsealed court documents contend that these high-rolling parents—some of them public figures such as the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, as well as Loughlin’s husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli—paid hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars per child to a fixer who would then use that money to allegedly bribe certain college officials or other conspirators to help secure the child’s admission.
The country’s elite have long used their wealth to get their kids into top colleges via legal and widely recognized means—legacy and athletic admissions tend to favor the wealthy, and those who can pay for test prep and expensive sports get an additional leg up. In extreme cases, wealthy parents make hefty donations to schools, or, for example, pay for new campus buildings. The 33 parents now being charged allegedly opted instead for organized conspiracy. The alleged bribes were certainly cheaper than a building, and much simpler than paying for years of sports training. But the children of wealthy parents unwilling to risk jail time still get thumbs put on the scale for them in elite admissions offices every day.