What does the college admissions scandal say about American education?

Samantha Homcy, Editor-in-Chief

On March 12, 50 people were indicted on charges of bribery to get wealthy children into elite universities including Yale, Stanford, and the University of Southern California. The accused include parents, athletic coaches, exam administrators and admissions coaches. The parents involved include well-known actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin as well as CEOS, executives, professors, realtors and physicians.  


WIlliam “Rick” Singer, the ringleader of the scheme, was the head of The Key, an admissions prep company. He offered two services– helping clients cheat on the SAT or ACT or bribing collegiate coaches to recruit students as athletes to guarantee their admission, despite most of the students’ lack of athletic prowess.


Recently Huffman and 12 other defendants , including a man who took tests for students, pleaded guilty. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty to charges of mail fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors now argue that Huffman should spend four to ten months in prison for her involvement.


The scandal changed the way America sees college admissions. For some, it confirmed their suspicions. In a viral video, Gerry Brooks, a principal from Kentucky, claims that educators are not shocked by the scheme. He asserts that “this kind of thing happens every day in schools,” and that parents thinking that they or their child are exempt from school rules, even in small ways, sends the same message as the crimes of those involved in the scam. “I have no clue why anyone is surprised,” says senior Maia Stephens. “Money makes the world go ‘round, so it’s not shocking that bribes are a factor in admission.”  


Loughlin and Giannulli’s daughter, Olivia Jade, has been under fire since the scandal broke due to comments in a Youtube video. Her parents paid $500,000 for Olivia Jade and her sister to be admitted to the University of Southern California (USC) under the guise that they were crew recruits. Olivia Jade is shown in an August video from her YouTube channel acting aloof about college. “I don’t really know how much school I’m going to attend,” Olivia Jade says. She then goes on to talk about how her Youtube career is keeping her too busy to consistently attend class. However, she claims that she still wants “the experience of, like, game days, partying … I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.” This caused criticism from her viewers, and the scandal breaking only worsened her reputation. She and her sister have withdrawn from USC.                                                                

“As someone who’s worked for 4 years to achieve the successes I’ve attained, it’s disheartening to hear that people who don’t care or work for college are able to attend some of the most prestigious universities,” says junior Ilana Mermelstein. “It almost makes me question why I work as hard as I do when I’ll always be overshadowed by those who were born into more economically fortunate circumstances.” Mermelstein plans on applying to Brown University, University of Maryland, University of Southern California and University of Georgia.


The situation is, at its core, a reminder of all that is wrong with higher education in America. The actions these people allegedly took are only the illegal ways to improve one’s chance at college admission- it happens in perfectly legal ways as well. In a country founded on principles of equal opportunity, and from institutions which claim that they value diversity and fairness in admissions, the fact that many are not shocked by this is distressing. American education in the future is unclear, but there is no doubt that this incident will stay a looming shadow on college admissions from now.