For many young adults, the institution of higher education in the United States already feels like a rigged pitfall with high standards and higher tuition. Even with flawless test scores and without the help of scholarships and financial aid, students and their families face accumulating overwhelming debt in order to receive an education.
This system becomes even more unfair and unforgiving when money is used to influence it. Over the past few weeks, one such case has come to light. Over a year ago, while conducting an unrelated investigation, FBI agents uncovered a widespread collegiate conspiracy. Wealthy parents bribed testing and university athletic officials to falsify records for their underqualified children in order to gain them placement at prestigious universities. So far, 50 people have been charged for taking part in this operation, most notably Lori Loughlin from “Fuller House” and Felicity Huffman from “Desperate Housewives.”
Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli took part in a paid testing scandal, along with many other parents through William Rick Singer, CEO of The Key, a test preparation company. SAT and ACT testing officials were bribed to allow individuals contracted by Singer to secretly take the test for students, or replace the students scores with the individuals. All payments to Singer were laundered through an illegitimate, non-profit called the Key Worldwide Foundation. Ironically, the mission of the organization is to provide monetary assistance to underprivileged students who wish to attend college.
They are also accused of paying $500,000 to Singer to bribe coaches at the University of Southern California in order to list their daughters as recruits for the crew team. While athletic coaches are not part of university admissions staff, they do have an influence in the process. Coaches will take into account recruitment status and athletic promise, then make suggestions to the staff evaluating applications. This gives student athletes a leg up in the struggle to receive an acceptance.
This is despicable, and these entitled individuals should be ashamed of themselves for how they have curtailed and potentially ruined the futures of other promising American teens. They have literally robbed hard-working students of their deserved places at prestigious universities. I believe that any children currently enrolled in university as a result of illegal actions by their parents should be expelled immediately. This may seem harsh or irrational to some as the students did not commit any crimes themselves, but without the influence of money, they never would have made it into these institutions in the first place.
Their grades, test scores, resumes and essays would not have been enough to earn them entrance to the targeted prestigious universities, which is why their parents bribed admissions staff and testing officials to falsify information. Plain and simple, they did not earn their spots at university, therefore they do not deserve to keep them. For those who believe this would be unfair to the students, some of whom were oblivious to their parents’ actions, I want to point out that they can always re-apply. Money for application fees is not an issue, clearly, so if their academic and extracurricular activities speak for themselves, then the students should have no trouble gaining admission again on fair and legal terms.
For the parents, I do not believe that prison sentences would be a fitting or sobering punishment for their privileged crimes. These adults clearly have the money to buy their children’s way into university, so why not have them do the same for the children who they robbed of the chance to have the higher education that they earned?
The FBI reported that the parents charged in this conspiracy paid up to a collective “6.5 million dollars.” The tuition cost for a year at the University of California, Los Angeles, a public university and one of the institutions involved in the scandal, is $12,763 for in-state students, and $37,471 for out-of-state students. The lump sum paid by these parents in bribes would finance a four year education at UCLA for 43 out-of-state students, or 125 in-state students.
Last Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling of Massachusetts, who is embroiled in the case, stated to the press that, “for every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.” I believe that if you want to justly punish and compensate all affected parties, you must force these parents to set up or give their money to scholarships dedicated to underprivileged students. They should have to literally repay the communities and students they robbed. In my mind, this is the only just punishment these parents could receive for their crimes.