College Cheating Scandal Provokes National Concern


Written by Mia Cammarota and Annie Gilbert

At least fifty wealthy families, including Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, have been accused of using their influence to get their children admitted into some of the top colleges in the United States. Along with Huffman, thirteen have plead guilty.

Since the release of the story, these families have faced backlash from the public and hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges. Felicity Huffman could receive 12 to 18 months in jail because of her plea, and as a result of her previously clean record. Lori Loughlin was offered 18 to 24 months in jail if she pleaded guilty, but she turned the down the offer. Loughlin then was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, honest services fraud, and money laundering. These charges could result in a maximum of 40 years and $750,000 in fines. Originally, Loughlin believed that her actions would never lead to jail time.

The students involved have been granted acceptance into colleges illegally, primarily with the use of fake athletic scholarships and cheating on college entrance exams. Lori Loughlin, and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 to get their daughters accepted into the University of Southern California. Both were accepted on a fake crew team scholarship by using Photoshop to place their faces in team pictures. Many families involved in the scandal took a similar approach. In light of the situation, this has started to be known as the “side door” into college.

Bribery on tests like the ACT/SAT was used by having the tests corrected by a proctor. Actress Felicity Huffman paid $15,000 to get her daughter unlimited time on the SAT and have her overall score boosted. Along with this, there have been cases of students taking the test in separate rooms with a proctor, accommodations which are supposed to only apply for a select few needing special assistance as approved by the College Board.

The main person behind the scandal is William ‘Rick’ Singer, who helped wealthy students cheat on the ACT/SAT, and recommended students for their athletic abilities while knowing their athletic profiles were fake. Singer was the CEO of The Key, a college and career network business. He worked with Loughlin, Huffman, and many other wealthy clients. Over the past decade Singer has been paid about $25 million in bribes.

When accused of his affiliations with the college cheating scandal, Singer stated, “All of these things, and many more things, I did. I created a side door that would guarantee families would get in.”

Wealthy families having an advantage over others isn’t a recent matter. Those from prosperous backgrounds have often donated money to universities that their children hope to attend. This isn’t illegal, however, it is often viewed as unfair by the general public. Along with involving money, family legacy can positively affect an applicant’s probability of being accepted. As a result of the scandal, rapper Dr. Dre took to social media to show off his daughter’s acceptance into USC, saying “My daughter got accepted into USC all on her own…No jail time!!!!” Immediately after, he received backlash from his followers due to the $70 million donation he and Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of Beats by Dre, made to the school in 2013.

While it appears that many wealthy students get into colleges by utilizing their parent’s affluence, it remains to be seen how successful these students are once they arrive.

LCPS School Board Member Chris Croll says, “Cheaters always know they cheated to get ahead, and in the end, it usually catches up to them. When I was a high school student taking AP Literature, I had a classmate who routinely cheated. Her entire family attended Harvard, and the pressure on her was immense to perform at the highest levels. She felt she had to cheat on tests and plagiarize her older sister’s papers to earn A’s to make her parents happy. She ended up being admitted to Harvard but failed out after the first semester.”

In Loudoun County there are tight regulations when it comes to taking tests at all levels, and when there is an offense, the administration doesn’t take it lightly. There have been no further steps to rid the schools of cheating in light of the scandal, but there has been an email sent out to staff for extra precaution.

“When we issue the SAT or ACT here at the high school level, we are under very strict guidelines of what we’re allowed and not allowed to do. As the Testing Supervisor here at Woodgrove for the SAT and ACT, I’m not only serving as a Loudoun County employee, but I’m also at that time serving as a College Board employer or an ACT employee. From the custodians to the main office staff they know if testing materials come in, they immediately get put in a locked closet behind locked doors. There’s checks and balances,” says Guidance Director Geri Fiore. The seniors of the 2019 class have recently been receiving their acceptance letters to schools across the globe and have put in years of hard work before the moment of opening the envelope. Today’s society is one where people with a high income can cheat their way around the system, and is leaving those doing all the work unsettled.

WHS senior Cara Grady, expresses her frustrations with this by stating, “I don’t think it’s fair at all because getting into good colleges is a long process that you have to work towards for many years. People shouldn’t be able to just get in because of money and it’s good that many have been caught for it. Unfortunately life isn’t always fair, but you have to make sure to do the right thing along the way.”