College Cheating Scam Shows Just How Much Money Can Buy

Federal authorities charged 50 people across six states for a massive college cheating scam this week, inadvertently highlighting the lengths to which the rich and famous will go to get their children into elite colleges. It really puts all those false claims about “affirmative action” into perspective.

For folks like me who got into college the old-fashioned way, the case is also a fascinating glimpse into the lives of powerful people — including a number of Hollywood stars who’ve made an outsized splash in this case.

Parents involved in the scam used a variety of tactics to give their children advantages in the college application process, with the goal of greasing the skids so they could get into schools like the University of Southern California, Stanford, Georgetown and Yale.

In some cases, parents were coached on how to get their kids “diagnosed” with a disability so they could request accommodations, like more time on tests or testing in a facility with a cooperative proctor who would help their kids get the right score — or look the other way while someone else took tests for their children.

This tactic is particularly galling in light of the fact that students with actual disabilities often have to fight tooth and nail for accommodations they need to succeed in school, and they’re sometimes accused of faking for “perks” like more time on tests. This investigation could have a huge ripple effect on disabled students’ ability to access accommodations.

In the case of others, parents worked with coaches to falsify athletic records; once admitted as a student athlete, the student would simply leave the team. This included, bizarrely, using photographs of actual student athletes with the prospective students’ heads photoshopped on to add to the veracity of the claim.

And all of this cost money.

Parents made “donations” of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain access to the organization used to perpetrate the scam. Edge College & Career Network — headed by a man named William Singer, who pleaded guilty when faced with the overwhelming charges — catered to people with deep pockets and connections, and the company ran through a variety of networks to ensure that parents got their money’s worth. Singer referred to his tactics as a “side door,” and one that would have been closed to all but the wealthiest.

Officials claim students “didn’t know” about these practices, which really stretches the boundaries of believability; even wealthy teens isolated from the realities of the world must have observed some anomalies when it came to the admissions process. For those who truly didn’t know, the news that they’re occupying spaces they didn’t earn must be disconcerting — and it may leave them wondering if they would have been able to get in on their own.

Of course, it’s not like any of this is new. Wealthy parents have been using money and influence to get their students into elite schools for a very long time, whether by buying entire buildings, leaning on legacy admissions processes or benefiting from education inequalities that ensure their children get an excellent quality college preparation education while others do not.

Sometimes this means sending kids to private schools and providing them with access to resources like after-school enrichment, travel and more. Sometimes it means living in the right zip code for a high-powered public school. Either way, children of wealthy people are operating with a number of advantages from the start.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

43 comments

Ann B
Ann B3 days ago

surely this comes as no surprise????????

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Julie D
Julie D6 days ago

I don't know why people seem to be so shocked over this. Wealthy parents have been buying their lazy, unqualified, spoiled kids way into prestigious colleges for many many decades. It is nothing new. What is new is that it is finally being openly exposed and that some of these people will actually have to pay some consequences for it.

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Tabot T
Tabot T8 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W9 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Jan S
Jan S9 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Shirley S
Shirley S9 days ago

Who instigated this important investigation ???? Was it a clever Journalist ???

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Debbi W
Debbi W9 days ago

The parent that participated in that demeaned their children and had no fair in their ability to succeed. That is a terrible statement for parents to make, although Lori Laughlin's daughter with her make-up video was an example of few brains.

So they pay to get their baby into a college or university, isn't it up to their kid to earn the grades? Or do they continue to buy their way through four years of college? I'm proud of my of grandchildren. They worked hard and qualified for good schools, one in engineering and the other in forensic science. Neither could succeed if someone else took their tests.

It's a shame those parents forgot the value of an education, something their children needs. Lori Laughlin had a great career with Hallmark movies. Now she's lost that. I wonder if she really understands why what she did was so wrong. . .

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Karin Hanson
Karin Hanson9 days ago

This is long overdue..... wealthy kids, who just take up space preventing intelligent students from receiving the education they have worked so very hard for. Canadian universities have been accepting huge $$$ for Asian and other non-resident kids for many years taking priority over local more deserving students and this too should stop.

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Alea C
Alea C9 days ago

Ah, the lament of the super rich. If you can't buy your way into schools, jobs, government positions, then what good is it? Same goes for your kids.

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Shelley w
Shelley w9 days ago

The Colleges should completely control the testing and base their acceptance mostly on this test which is the most objective and fair way to assess the abilities of candidates. Forget about sports scholarships if the test score is low and forget about choosing students from minority groups if their test scores are low as well. Students who are not strong academically are being stressed out at Colleges and need to find their niche where they can shine. There are too many students who are attending academic institutions and coming out with no skills for success because they took useless courses like women's studies, gender pronouns and the glorification of socialism.

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