Key Details and Reactions to College-Admissions Scandal

Higher Education

Key Details and Reactions to College-Admissions Scandal

By Jeffrey R. Young     Mar 12, 2019

Key Details and Reactions to College-Admissions Scandal

Federal prosecutors charged nearly 50 people on Tuesday with crimes in connection to an admissions-fraud scheme in which parents allegedly paid millions of dollars to get their kids into highly-selective colleges by cheating on admissions tests or helping them pose as student athletes.

U.S. government officials referred to their investigation as Operation Varsity Blues, and it has swiftly led several of the colleges involved to take action or launch investigations of their own.

At the center of the scheme is a for-profit college counseling business called The Edge College & Career Network, LLC., led by William Singer. Singer has agreed to plead guilty to the charges and is cooperating with investigators, according to this lengthy report in The New York Times.

Key points from the indictment:

— Parents participating in the scheme paid between $15,000 and $75,000 per test to have someone from Edge pose as their child and take their SAT or ACT exams for them, or to correct exam questions just after the test to boost their scores. In at least one case, the student was unaware that their parent had paid to improve their admission test.

— Parents also paid Singer some $25 million to bribe coaches to consider their students as athletic recruits in the admissions process (for sports they didn’t even play), which allowed the students to gain admission even with lower grades and SAT scores. In some cases Singer and his associates created fake athletics profiles for the applicants by photoshopping their faces onto pictures of student athletes they found online.

— Thirty-three parents were charged in the investigation, including two Hollywood actors: Felicity Huffman (best-known for her role in “Desperate Housewives”) and Lori Loughlin (who played in the long-running sitcom “Full House”). Bill McGlashan, who helped found The Rise Fund, which invests in social ventures (including those in education technology), was also named. (Update: He has since been fired.)

Some Reactions So Far

— Some colleges involved took immediate action against the coaches alleged to have taken bribes. For instance, the University of Texas placed its tennis coach, Michael Center, on administrative leave. Stanford University fired its sailing coach, John Vandemoer. In a statement, Stanford said: “The charges state that sailing head coach John Vandemoer accepted financial contributions to the sailing program from an intermediary in exchange for agreeing to recommend two prospective students for admission to Stanford. Neither student came to Stanford. However, the alleged behavior runs completely counter to Stanford’s values.”

— Many college officials spoke out against the behavior. Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, which holds its annual meeting later this week, said in a statement: “If these allegations are true, they violate the essential premise of a fair and transparent college admissions process. This alleged behavior is antithetical to the core values of our institutions, defrauds students and families, and has absolutely no place in American higher education.”

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