Feds expose college admissions cheating scheme
Loughlin and Huffman: Expensive education
Federal prosecutors this week charged more than two dozen wealthy parents—including Hollywood actresses, financiers, and a Napa Valley vintner—with using bribes, fake test scores, and bogus athletic records to secure their children’s admission to Stanford, Yale, and other elite colleges. The parents allegedly funneled $25 million through a sham college counseling service that paid proctors to secretly correct students’ SAT and ACT exam papers and college coaches to recruit students for sports they didn’t play. Fifty people in six states—including 33 parents and nine college coaches—have been charged in connection with the scheme. In most cases, the students were not aware of the scam, said Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “The parents are the prime movers of this fraud.”
Among those accused are sitcom star Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who allegedly paid $500,000 to get their daughters on the University of Southern California’s crew team, even though they weren’t rowers. Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives allegedly paid $15,000 to help one of her children cheat on the SAT in 2017. The scheme was organized by William Singer, who ran a phony nonprofit in Newport Beach, Calif.; he has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and faces up to 20 years in prison. Some students get into college through the “front door,” on merit, Singer explained, and others through the “back door,” where big donations from parents increase the odds of admittance. “I created a side door—a sure thing.”
What the columnists said
“I am half-horrified and half-entertained by this scandal,” said Jason Gay in The Wall Street Journal. The delicious details read like a parody of 21st-century privilege: Some kids’ faces were allegedly photoshopped onto the bodies of pole vaulters and water polo players to prove their nonexistent athletic prowess. It’s yet another example of an entitled American elite that has been “conditioned to get what it wants.”
“Though we might be laughing, the joke is probably on us,” said Willa Paskin in Slate.com. Our society of haves and have-nots is becoming so stratified that even extremely rich moms and dads are “in a panic for their children’s future.” These parents understand that attending brand-name schools provides entrée into elite circles, the kind that might help a young person move from the 1 percent to the 0.01 percent.
“The real college admissions scandal is what’s legal,” said Libby Nelson in Vox.com. Legacy admissions grease the skids for underperforming children, as do big gifts of cash. Harvard admitted 4.6 percent of all applicants in 2018, but 42 percent of donors’ kids got in. President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was admitted to the school after a $2.5 million donation from his father. “At least there’s a level of transparency” to such transactions, said Maureen Callahan in the New York Post. But our cosseted elite can’t even play by rules written in their favor. Is it any wonder Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist call “to eat the rich” has found an audience? ■