In March, a massive college admissions scandal swept through elite universities across the United States, catching parents, coaches and admissions officers in its net.
Thirty-three parents with high profiles, including television stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, are accused of bribery to help their children get into prestigious universities. William Singer, a consultant at the center of the scandal, served as the middle-man between parents and coaches, and also facilitated plagiarism in standardized testing and provided inaccurate student biographies.
In one of Singer’s scams, parents would pay him anywhere from $15,000 to $75,000 to obtain a learning disability waiver for their children. The waiver earned the students extra time for the SAT or ACT, and also provided an opportunity for private proctoring. Once the waiver and private proctoring were obtained, persons in the scheme would sometimes take the test for the student, or correct the answers.
Parents also paid coaches to secure athletic recruitment slots for students who never even played the sport. To funnel the funds through without detection, the payments were made through Singer’s nonprofit organization where they could be seen as donations eligible for a tax deduction.
A scandal that involves multiple frauds and crimes centered around the already hot spot of college admissions enraged the nation. Many students, already distrustful of a college admissions system that favors the rich, are now even more anxious about the unfairness inherent within college admissions systems and how they work against qualified applicants. The inequality revealed how admissions can be tilted in favor of the wealthy, and is truly disappointing for underprivileged applicants.
The students involved are facing no charges, yet their college acceptances are likely to be revoked. University of Southern California, for instance, has warned that it might punish students who were connected to the scheme. Some of the students may have had no idea the role their parents played in their acceptance, however, and may feel like victims themselves. After all, how disappointed must a parent be with a child to feel she has to spend thousands of dollars illicitly to secure a place in college? And, as Mrs. Mulhern commented, “If these parents are rich enough to buy their kids a spot in elite universities, why even send their kids to college since they would do just fine without a diploma.”
The Canterbury student body, especially the sixth formers who just went through the application process, are also angry at the scandal.
Nova Chen, a recently admitted student to Brown University, commented, “It disappoints me, but at the same time I am not surprised at all. Students put so much effort into, and place so much importance on, college admissions, that this bribery undermines the sacrifices of students who are not as privileged.”
William Singer and the coaches involved pleaded innocent to multiple charges. Even while there’s no final verdict yet, the scandal once again exposed the broken system of college admissions. The injustices associated with college admissions have mounted over the years and results in applicants doubting the fairness in higher education.
It is pathetic that while education sometimes offers the only path toward upward economic mobility, the system is manipulated by the elite members of the society who have already achieved financial success. Like many of the past college scandals, one can only hope the incident not only raises awareness of the inconsistencies and unfairness of the college admissions process, but also results in colleges fixing the system to provide a fair competition for applicants and rebuild the reputation for higher education.