College Entry Scandal Came From an Unexpected Tip

Financial exec in securities fraud probe told investigators of bribe request, hoping for leniency
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2019 11:40 AM CDT
'Rigged': Students Sue Over College Entry Scandal
This photo shows the iconic Tommy Trojan statue at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. USC is one of many colleges and companies moving swiftly to distance themselves from employees swept up in a nationwide college-admissions scheme.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

In the wake of this week's massive college-admissions scandal comes the first, though likely not the last, lawsuit. Two Stanford students are suing their own university, along with Yale, USC, and other schools caught up in the mess, reports Bloomberg. They say they were denied entry to their first-choice colleges while a "rigged" system was in place. They also say the scandal will devalue their Stanford diplomas because future employers will wonder if they got in thanks to bribes. Details and related developments:

  • First student: One of the two, Erica Olsen, says Yale rejected her despite "stellar" test scores and athletic achievements, reports USA Today. "Had she known that the system at Yale University was warped and rigged by fraud, she would not have spent the money to apply to the school," the lawsuit states. "She also did not receive what she paid for—a fair admissions consideration process."
  • Second student: Kalea Woods makes a similar complaint against USC, saying she "was never informed that the process of admission at USC was an unfair, rigged process, in which parents could buy their way into the university through bribery and dishonest schemes."
  • The unraveling: The Wall Street Journal reports that the case began last spring when a financial exec being investigated for securities fraud and hoping for leniency offered up a tip: He said the women's soccer coach at Yale had asked for a bribe to get the exec's daughter admitted. The story details the subsequent investigation, including how alleged mastermind William "Rick" Singer wore wires into families' homes.

  • Disabilities: Advocates for students with disabilities are among those particularly angered by the scandal, reports NPR. Part of the scheme allegedly involved getting students more time to take the SAT and other exams through false claims of a learning disability. That might involve phony documentation or the bribing of test proctors.
  • Telling tweet: Schools were scrambling over damage control, as outrage spreads among students or prospective students whose parents don't have deep pockets. Georgetown, for instance, says it will tighten scrutiny of athletic credentials, reports the Washington Post. The newspaper also notes that this tweet went viral at Princeton among low-income and first-generation students: "wow, it turns out money was the real Affirmative Action all along!"
  • No mug shots: Two of the big celebs caught up in the scandal are actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. So where are the mugshots? The feds say they won't be releasing them, reports USA Today. It's not because of coddling, however; authorities say federal authorities typically release mugshots only when a suspect is still at large.
  • Costly: Loughlin's daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, is a YouTube vlogger with millions of followers, but being caught up in the scandal could cost her lucrative brand deals, reports Variety. Already, Hewlett-Packard has cut ties. The 19-year-old is a USC freshman, and her parents are accused of getting her in through shady means.
(The alleged mastermind says his scheme created a "side door.")

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