U.S. Education Dept. Starts Investigation of 8 Colleges Named in...

Higher Education

U.S. Education Dept. Starts Investigation of 8 Colleges Named in Admissions Scandal

By Jeffrey R. Young     Mar 27, 2019

U.S. Education Dept. Starts Investigation of 8 Colleges Named in Admissions Scandal
Officials from the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. sent letters to eight universities this week informing them they are under investigation.

In the latest fallout from a sweeping college admissions scandal, the U.S. Education Department this week notified eight universities that they are under investigation for possible violations of federal financial-aid laws.

On Monday the department sent letters to presidents of Yale University, Wake Forest University, the University of San Diego, Stanford University, Georgetown University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles, notifying them of a “preliminary investigation” into their admissions practices.

The investigation was first reported by Politico.

Education Department officials declined to provide a copy of the letters, but the Dallas Morning News obtained a copy sent to the University of Texas at Austin’s president, Gregory Fenves, and officials at the university confirmed receiving it.

The letter referenced allegations made public earlier this month that federal prosecutors charged nearly 50 people in an admissions-fraud scheme in which a college counseling firm bribed college athletics officials to gain preferential treatment for some students’ applications.

“The allegations made and evidence cited by the Department of Justice raise questions about whether your institution is fully meeting its obligations under the HEA, the Department’s regulations, and the PPA,” the letter said, referring to the Higher Education Act and the Program Participation Agreement.

The letter notes that if colleges cannot prove they are following federal guidelines in their admissions and financial aid practices, they risk losing eligibility for federal financial aid. It added that the law requires universities that are eligible for federal aid to show that no one involved in admissions “may have engaged in fraud, misrepresentation, conversion or breach of fiduciary responsibility, or other illegal conduct” related to the process.

The letter to the University of Texas at Austin asks the university to provide a long list of details and documents, including the names, social security numbers, academic transcript and all other records about UT students mentioned in the DOJ investigation, including whether or not the students or parents received federal financial aid. The education department also asked the university to provide any documents that were subpoenaed by the Department of Justice in its investigation, and even marketing materials including admissions brochures and websites “regarding the selective nature of the institution’s programs and the standards employed in the admissions process.

The university was given 30 days to send in the required information.

A spokesperson for the university, J.B. Bird, said in a statement that an internal review is ongoing. "The university has a thorough admissions process," he added. "Integrity in admissions is vital to the academic and ethical standards of the university. The actions alleged by federal prosecutors against this one UT employee do not reflect the university’s admissions process. Current information, including an overview of the admissions process, is posted online at our website on "Questions and Answers Related to the Federal Investigation of Admissions Fraud."

The university has already fired Michael Center, the tennis coach who was named by federal investigators as accepting bribes as part of the admissions scheme.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also called on the university to reexamine its admissions process. “It’s important for every university to go back and re-evaluate, to study and to investigate, their admissions processes to make sure that nothing like this either is happening or can happen,” Abbott said at a news conference in Austin, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Officials at Yale, who also confirmed receiving a similar letter from the Education Department, said in a statement this week that they are “reviewing the department’s requests and will respond appropriately.”

Yale withdrew admission of a student who was admitted as part of the scheme.

In frequently-asked-questions page related to the scandal, university officials said “Yale has no evidence that a student admitted under this scheme has graduated.”



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