An update on the largest college admissions scandal in history

Simone Quary | Staff Writer

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Photo Credit: Flickr User Lloyd Klein

It is no doubt that the importance of obtaining a college education has risen this millennium.

For a considerable amount of youth, it has been ingrained into their mindset that a college degree allows for career and financial prosperity, and most importantly, freedom from generational curses. As a result, students throughout the world strive to stand out from the rest of college applicants with a plethora of academic and extracurricular achievements listed on their college applications.

But what about the students who appear to have the educational and economic advantages when applying for college?

Nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues,” NPR describes the college admissions scandal that made headlines in March 2019 as “a multimillion-dollar scheme with parents paying consultants to fabricate academic and athletic credentials in addition to offering bribes to help get their children into prestigious universities.”

In general, the parents, university administration and sports coaches were charged for conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

However, the Varsity Blues scandal has resurfaced in the news because as recently as Oct. 22, the grand jury reached the decision to charge 11 defendants, the parents of the students, with bribery.

“I think it relates to parents forcing their kids into acting or into the celebrity world, and I think they should let their kids find their own talent and let them prosper on their own,”

Hampton University sophomore aviation major Bilal Wilburn said. “It’s like this: You buy your kid a pair of shoes, but you have to let them tie them on their own.”

As stated in U.S. Code § 666, a federal statute concerning bribery and theft in relation to the distribution of federal funds, an individual or organization can be charged with conspiracy to commit bribery when at least $5,000 is given to an organization that receives a minimum of $10,000 from government funds.

If found guilty, the statute also states that an individual can be fined or imprisoned for up to 10 years. In addition to being charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, the 11 defendants who have decided not to take a plea deal must also deal with charges from March. If found guilty of all accused crimes, the parents can face up to 45 years in prison.

And the alleged mastermind behind the grand scheme? William Singer, the founder of the for-profit college guidance companies, The Edge College and Career Network and the LLC, who plead guilty in March to multiple charges, including money laundering and obstruction of justice.

As for maneuvering the college system in favor of his clients, Singer admitted in court that he falsified ACT and SAT test scores, altered the photos of students and presented them as athletes, and took advantage of affirmative action by lying about a student’s ethnicity or disability.

While jail time serves as a possibility for the parents and Singer, this leaves many people to question the fate of the students who were admitted into elite universities under false pretenses.

The students involved in the scandal had been advised not to say anything to the press or media in fear of self-incriminating themselves.

However, one student who was unwillingly involved, Jack Buckingham, wrote a statement to the Hollywood Reporter in March expressing his remorse and apologizes for his mother’s actions.

“I know there are millions of kids out there both wealthy and less fortunate who grind their (expletive) off just to have a shot at the college of their dreams,” said Buckingham. “I am upset that I was unknowingly involved in a large scheme that helps give kids who may not work as hard as others an advantage over those who truly deserve those spots.”

His mother was accused in March of bribing an ACT proctor $50,000 to take the standardized test for him.

Currently, no students have been charged with any federal crimes, but some have decided to withdraw from their university of attendance.

Actress Felicity Huffman, who admitted in court to having an SAT proctor administer and correct her daughter’s test plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud, was sentenced to 14 days of prison at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California. She began her sentence Oct. 15 and was released two days earlier than scheduled. Huffman’s sentence also includes 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine, which has been paid.

 

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