College admission scandal strips down education system to its corrupt core

by Natalie Maronas

UNDER FIRE: As a horde of eager press corner her on every side, actress Felicity Huffman avoids them as she enters her private ride from a federal courthouse. Being one of the individuals charged with bribery in the admission scandal, she was found guilty of paying $15,000 to give her daughter unlimited time to take her SAT exam. Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

Some have worn the guilt on their sleeve, while others still refuse to admit their wrongdoing. The college admission scandal, having been ongoing for almost eight years, has reached its peak in public attention and action through newly-found evidence. As more awareness is brought towards it, many have begun to reflect on the power that wealthy individuals have and how it can affect ourselves.

With the case first sparking in 2011 under the orchestration of college admission counselor, William Rick Singer, it was found that 50 people have been charged with bribery and fraud among university staff. This was done in an attempt to boost the probability for their children to get admission into their university of choice. Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Southern California were among the few that had millions paid to coaches, directors, and board members. With control of the Key Worldwide Foundation and The Edge College and Career Network, Singer was able to negotiate with various parents to allow “the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school,” as stated by NBC on March 12. Although he has been charged with racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, he exhibited remorse for his actions and admitted that he “helped bring down his own criminal enterprise by becoming ‘a cooperating witness’ and wearing a wire for the FBI.”

Amidst an ongoing debate over college admission pricing, student debt, and increasing prices for prepaid college plans, this scenario only reeks of irony with how pathetically and unsurprisingly it tumbled out into public view. With the amount of wealthy, elite individuals that are able to bypass and cheat the system for themselves and their children, it only illustrates how not everything is fair people individuals of different social classes. There is the plausible idea that those guilty are only a minuscule sample compared to the number of others that get admitted to elite regardless of their status; however, this can be refuted by the fact that Singer “facilitated 761 ‘side doors’ to admission.” While only 50 people were called as guilty, there are still many others left uncaught in the scenario. 

Speaking of which, there has been loud public backlash with some of the families caught in the act. Most notably was “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, who bribed $500,000 to increase their two daughters chances of gaining entry into the University of Southern California. Additionally, “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman was also called out as she was found guilty of bribing $15,000 for her daughter to have unlimited time when taking her SAT exam. Upon FBI investigation, it was found that Loughlin “allegedly told the cooperating witness that she would arrange for one of her daughters to be photographed on a rowing machine to bolster the false claim on the application to USC that her daughter was the crew coxswain for the L.A. Marine Club team.” Huffman also claimed that she was considering having a ringer take the test for her daughter after her first attempt, as well as have her second daughter have unlimited time as well. While both families were able to bypass major punishments through hefty bails, they still face the consequences of federal surveillance, cancelled projects, and public shaming as their reputation is ruined as a whole. The New York Times on April 3 summarized it perfectly: “the parents have become symbols of what many believe is a rigged system, not just in college admissions but in American society at large.”

What is most disappointing about all of this is that this is not that surprising in the entire scheme of things; it was expected that corruption to this degree was commonplace in the college admission process for the wealthy. Yet, what makes this noteworthy is the fact that it is actually concrete, that there is something we can point to so we can prove that the admission process is unfair. Believing that the issue will magically change and that fairness can be accomplished is ridiculous, but with light being brought to this topic, there is definitely the possibility that some improvements will be made to fix it. In the meantime, this situation has only further made us question our school system as we ask whether our future is determined by our hard work and skill or the amount of money in our bank accounts.