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Top universities implicated in pay-to-play college admissions scandal

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photo courtesy of Bobak Ha’Eri
“The admissions scandal, centered at California universities, has caused state legislators to introduce new anti-corruption legislation, including a bill aimed at ending legacy donations.”

A wave of national attention turned its focus on higher education on Tues., Mar. 12, with the indictment of 50 individuals associated with a scheme to admit students to elite colleges. William “Rick” Singer, who owned and operated a for-profit college counseling business, allegedly conspired with parents, coaches and higher education administrators to secure admission of students to schools such as Yale University, Georgetown University, the University of Southern California (USC) and more. Singer allegedly used bribes and other forms of fraud to secure said admissions. He and approximately 33 parents and 13 coaches were among those arrested for involvement in the scandal on Mar. 12.

Some high profile arrests were made following the indictment, including Felicity Huffman, of Desperate Housewives, and Lori Loughlin, known for her role as “Aunt Becky” on the 90s sitcom Full House. Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade, received attention online following the indictment due to a video she posted in August 2018, where she stated that she was only interested in attending college for the “game days” and “partying.” Loughlin allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes for her daughters’ admission to USC, including for them to be recruited for USC’s crew team, despite not rowing crew.

Also included in the indictment was Mark Riddell, the former director of college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. On Mar. 26, it was reported that Riddell would plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. In a statement released through his attorney, Riddell assumed responsibility for his actions, while also emphasizing that he helped many students throughout his career.

“I do, however, want to clarify an assertion that has arisen in the media coverage,” Riddell’s statement read. “I absolutely, unequivocally never bribed anyone, nor has the information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged me with any form of bribery.”

IMG Academy issued an official statement on Mar. 13 after the allegations were made public.

“With the current information at hand, we have no reason to believe this alleged misconduct extends beyond Mr. Riddell, nor do we believe that these actions have any direct relation to [IMG] Academy students, parents or staff,” the statement read.

Yale University became the first to rescind an admission offer on Mar. 24. In an interview with the Yale Daily News, a spokesperson for the university confirmed that they had begun an internal review with assistance from outside counsel that culminated in this offer being rescinded.

“It’s not surprising, but it’s definitely frustrating,” thesis student Eli Weiss said. “Especially considering education is an industry in this country and not a right to all. Maybe it’s time we start following a new education model, like in other countries where it is free to everyone.”

Information for this article was gathered from justice.gov, insidehighered.com, edsource.org, yaledailynews.com and fortune.com.

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