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What Will Be the Likely Fallout of the College Admissions Scandal?

The fallout from the college admissions scandal will affect various parties, directly and indirectly, involved in Operation Varsity Blues. The Federal Bureau of Investigation stumbled on the bribing and cheating side-door strategies facilitated by admissions consultant William Rick Singer, head of Edge College & Career Network and nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation that was used to funnel bribes and fees in the guise of donations. Also indicted were two employees of Singer, Steven Masera and Mikaela Sanford, who held various positions in the two companies under investigation. As the FBI unravels the operation, it looks like these cases will have far-reaching effects on the entire college admission process.

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High Net Worth Families and Legacy Admissions

Families with the right connections and philanthropic resources have a leg up on the rest of the candidate pool when it comes to admissions to Ivy League and other top-tier universities. When parents and other family members are alumni of the college, their children and grandchildren are categorized as legacy admissions, which is an acknowledgment of the preferential treatment granted those who have links to the institution. The public may decry this privilege, but there is nothing illegal about contributing to the university’s development funds, sponsoring a research grant or supporting a building project. Supporting one’s alma mater or any preferred university will continue to flourish because endowments go to good causes. However, universities may have to take a long look at their processes for legacy admissions.

Admissions for Athletic Achievement

Mossimo Gianulli and Lori Loughlin were ensnared in Operation Varsity Blues because they bribed Singer and his cohorts to snag athletic admissions at the University of Southern California for their daughters who were not involved in the sport of rowing at any time. Coaches involved in this scheme have been suspended, fired or voluntarily separated from the schools they work for regardless of whether they personally benefited from the scheme or not. Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer allegedly used all the funds he received for the program that he headed. Processes for athletic admissions will most likely include greater oversight by the admissions committee to avoid egregious violations such as allocating slots to unqualified candidates. The colleges will have to institute more rigorous vetting procedures such as in-depth background checks of candidates by professional evaluators.

Celebrity Families and Undue Influence

The list of names implicated in the cheating scandal is a veritable who’s who in finance, entertainment, and other big businesses. It is alleged that in some cases, students were unaware of their parents’ behind-the-scenes maneuvers to secure their admission through higher SAT/ACT scores.

This is a loophole that should be addressed by the College Board and the ACT organization. Safeguards are in place to verify the identity of test-takers and report substitution is virtually impossible with SAT and ACT results being forwarded to students’ preferred colleges directly by the governing boards. Special accommodations for students with learning challenges will be reviewed thoroughly. Students who really need the special accommodations may be impacted by revised guidelines intended to prevent abuse of these arrangements.

Tempering Expectations

Students whose families were name-checked in the indictments have been forced to speak out to deny their involvement. Vulture shares how the Gianulli daughters have withdrawn from USC. This college admission cheating saga will force many families to come to terms with parents’ aspirations and their children’s true abilities and interests. College is not the only pathway to success, and attending a top university is not the only option for college-bound students. One of the most important and most likely fallout of the college admissions scandal will be a realignment of college expectations on the part of ambitious parents whose children may see other career pathways for themselves.

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