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On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged 50 people in a brazen scheme to buy spots in the freshman classes at Yale, Stanford and other big name schools. Have you heard about the scandal?
Watch the one-minute video above to learn more about the indictment. What is your reaction to what you know so far?
In “College Admissions Scandal: Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged,” Jennifer Medina, Katie Benner and Kate Taylor write:
A teenage girl who did not play soccer magically became a star soccer recruit at Yale. Cost to her parents: $1.2 million.
A high school boy eager to enroll at the University of Southern California was falsely deemed to have a learning disability so he could take his standardized test with a complicit proctor who would make sure he got the right score. Cost to his parents: at least $50,000.
A student with no experience rowing won a spot on the U.S.C. crew team after a photograph of another person in a boat was submitted as evidence of her prowess. Her parents wired $200,000 into a special account.
In a major college admissions scandal that laid bare the elaborate lengths some wealthy parents will go to get their children into competitive American universities, federal prosecutors charged 50 people on Tuesday in a brazen scheme to buy spots in the freshman classes at Yale, Stanford and other big name schools.
Thirty-three well-heeled parents were charged in the case, including Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders, and prosecutors said there could be additional indictments to come.
Also implicated were top college athletic coaches, who were accused of accepting millions of dollars to help admit undeserving students to a wide variety of colleges, from the University of Texas at Austin to Wake Forest and Georgetown, by suggesting they were top athletes.
The parents included the television star Lori Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli; the actress Felicity Huffman; and William E. McGlashan Jr., a partner at the private equity firm TPG, officials said.
The scheme unveiled Tuesday was stunning in its breadth and audacity. It was the Justice Department’s largest ever college admissions prosecution, a sprawling investigation that involved 200 agents nationwide and resulted in charges against 50 people in six states.
The charges also underscored how college admissions have become so cutthroat and competitive that some have sought to break the rules. The authorities say the parents of some of the nation’s wealthiest and most privileged students sought to buy spots for their children at top universities, not only cheating the system, but potentially cheating other hard-working students out of a chance at a college education.
In many of the cases, prosecutors said, the students were not aware that their parents were doctoring their test scores and lying to get them into school. Federal prosecutors did not charge any students or universities with wrongdoing.
“The parents are the prime movers of this fraud,” Andrew E. Lelling, the United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said Tuesday during a news conference. Mr. Lelling said that those parents used their wealth to create a separate and unfair admissions process for their children.
“The real victims in this case are the hardworking students” who were displaced in the admissions process by “far less qualified students and their families who simply bought their way in,” Mr. Lelling said.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— What is your reaction to the college admissions cheating scandal? What details in the article did you find the most shocking and why? Are you surprised that something like this happened in the United States? Why or why not?
— Who do you think should be held responsible for these crimes and how so?
— The authors write: “The charges also underscored how college admissions have become so cutthroat and competitive that some have sought to break the rules.” Do you agree? What do you think this case tells us about the college admissions process today?
— In a recent Opinion column, Frank Bruni argues that what these parents did is not all that different from the lengths to which many wealthy families will go to secure college admission for their children:
The wrinkle here is that the schemes were actually criminal and will apparently be prosecuted, and for once the colleges’ administrators were in the dark about them. But they’re versions of routine favor trading and favoritism that have long corrupted the admissions process, leeching merit from the equation.
It may be legal to pledge $2.5 million to Harvard just as your son is applying — which is what Jared Kushner’s father did for him — and illegal to bribe a coach to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but how much of a difference is there, really? Both elevate money over accomplishment. Both are ways of cutting in line.
It may be legal to give $50,000 to a private consultant who massages your child’s transcript and perfumes your child’s essays, and illegal to pay someone for a patently fictive test score, but aren’t both exercises in deception reserved for those who can afford them?
And while ghostwriting, whether by consultants or parents, may not be detectable or at least provable, it happens all the time and contributes to applications as bogus as the ones that came to federal prosecutors’ attention.
What is your reaction to Mr. Bruni’s claim? Do you think the college admissions process is rigged to favor the wealthy? Do you think it is fair? Why or why not?
— What message does this scandal send to high school students who intend to go to college? What is your biggest takeaway from it?