By now, you’ve heard about the wealthy parents bribing people in positions of power in order to get their children accepted into prestigious universities. The list of those accused includes actresses, businessmen, lawyers, physicians, and other “high society types.” According to a report from the New York Times, these parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars — sometimes millions — to hire the services of a man who “guaranteed” he could get his clients’ kids into the school of their choice.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” said Andrew Lelling, a U.S. Attorney involved with the case, which according to the Associated Press, is code-named “Operation Varsity Blues.”
But exactly how did the scheme work? In simple terms, parents paid enormous sums of money to William Singer, who then passed the money to certain collegiate athletic coaches and test administrators. Singer allegedly used his business, Edge College & Career Network, known simply as “The Key,” and its sister nonprofit organization “Key Worldwide Foundation,” to dispense the bribes. Depending on the student, the amount of money paid, and the wishes of the parents, Singer would essentially buy the student a spot on a collegiate sports team or buy the student a higher score on standardized tests.
On the athletic side, Singer worked with a handful of coaches who would, in exchange for the bribe, create a fake athletic record for the student and then offer them a spot on the college’s sports team. For parents looking to boost the scores of a student’s ACT or SAT test, Singer arranged for students to get bogus medical excuses allowing for extra test-taking time, or he would get an adult to take the exam for the student. According to the New York Times, federal law enforcement officials also claim Singer arranged for the demographic information of certain students to be changed in order to “take advantage of affirmative action.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) maintains that the actions of Singer, the parents, the coaches, and the administrators is straight up fraud and racketeering. In total, the FBI brought charges against 50 people who were involved in the scheme. The schools involved included Yale, the University of Southern California, Georgetown, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of Texas, according to a report from Politico. The sports in which these students were placed into include rowing, soccer, sailing, tennis, and water polo.
None of the students were charged, and authorities claim many of them had no idea their parents had fixed the admissions process or the standardized test score in their favor. The schools were not aware of the tampering either, and many of the institutions have terminated the coaches involved in the scandal.