University Admissions Scandal

Over the last week, both the academic and celebrity worlds have been roiled by a college admissions scam, involving famous Hollywood actors, tech executives, and college coaches.

On March 12, 2019, the US Department of Justice charged 50 individuals, including 33 affluent parents, with bribery, fraud, and false information, to get their kids admitted into some of the nation’s most elite universities, including Stanford, Yale, and the University of Southern California.

The mastermind behind this dishonest scheme, nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues”; by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was William “Rick”; Singer, a former high school football coach turned college counsellor. According to the FBI, Singer, founder of the Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key, used two tactics to game the college admissions process.

The first involved cheating on college admission entrance exams, the ACT and SAT. For this to work, the student was first falsely diagnosed with a learning disability, like ADHD. This gave him/her extra time to complete the test and the excuse to go to a special test-taking site, picked by Singer. The college counsellor would doctor the results by either finding other people to take the exam on behalf of the student, or by bribing the proctor to correct the answers after the test had been submitted.

The second, more expensive, strategy involved creating an imaginary sports profile and bribing athletic coaches and administrators to designate the applicants as recruited athletes, so they had access to one of the coveted reserved spots.

Depending on the service provided, Singer received between $15,000 to an astounding $6.5 million from parents eager to get their children admitted into an elite university.  Not surprisingly the widespread admissions scam has left many Americans feeling betrayed about a system that is already perceived to be tilted in favour of the wealthy, who have access to better high schools and college preparatory services. Hopefully, universities will re-examine their admissions process and find a way to make it equitable for all.

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