Earlier this year, an enormous scandal that has been going on for years was finally brought to public attention. As many people now know, 50 people, including Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were charged in a case which involves parents accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to William Rick Singer, in order to help their children get accepted into prestigious colleges and universities.
Singer used it to bribe coaches, manipulate SAT and ACT scores and consequently, put many students and parents at an unfair advantage. This is more than just another scandal involving well-known public figures. This is the embodiment of what is wrong with the U.S education system.
While these parents knew what they were doing was wrong, the majority of society tends to ignore the big picture. With the way our education system operates, upper-class citizens will always have the upper hand. Schools are funded through property taxes, meaning the higher the value of homes in the school district, the better the school has to offer.
Because the property values are higher, so is the wealth of the district, meaning that parents living in the better districts have an opportunity to donate to the school. Meanwhile, parents living in the poorer districts struggle to get by. Now, it is not wrong for these parents to want their children to have the best education and it is not the fault of the parents themselves. It is the fault of a long history of American society favoring the rich and turning their backs on the poor.
Before diving into what this scandal means for the education system, it is important to understand how this scandal went on for so long and why no one questioned it.
According to Newsweek's Scott McDonald, Singer explains, vaguely, how he pulled off this scandal.
"If I can make the comparison, there is a front door of getting in where a student just does it on their own," Singer said. "And then there’s a backdoor where people go to institutional advancement and make large donations, but they're not guaranteed in. And then I created a side door that guaranteed families to get in."
Singer's claim has three separate parts— the good, the bad and the ugly. It is always a good thing when people can get into college themselves, especially prestigious colleges. However, sometimes parents give the school a little nudge (i.e. donations) to sway their decision. This is not the best way to get into a good school, and it gives some kids an advantage. However, at least that money goes to the school and does not guarantee their children's admission. What Singer and the parents involved in this case did was just plain ugly.
The parents paid someone to lie about their children, took away opportunities for those who deserved to go to the school and perhaps unintentionally, showed how little faith they had in the young adults they had raised. These payments were used to bribe coaches into saying these kids had been exceptional team members, even though no one had ever seen these students participate in the sports.
They were used to help students cheat on ACT and SAT exams and bribe those who administered the tests.
According to Mark Morales of CNN, the scandal came to light when "Morrie Tobin (an executive) was being investigated as part of a separate financial fraud case and gave investigators enough information that they were able to identify William Rick Singer as the mastermind of the plot."
To put it simply, this scandal was only discovered because a man who was being charged for a completely different reason did not want to go down alone.
One of the worst parts about this scandal is the way Singer covered it up.
According to Gregory Korte of USA Today, "He also created a charity, the Key Worldwide Foundation, that prosecutors said he used to launder 'donations' to college officials in order to secure a placement."
By using a charity organization to launder the money, Singer has made a joke out of the entire system. It brings into question how many charities have been used over the years to scam people out of their money. This is not to say all charities are bad or for-profit, but people should be more cautious of which charities they donate to. A little research can go a long way.
So, what does this scam mean for the parents involved and for the education system? According to Michelle Mark with Insider, the parents are likely to get a hefty fine, some community service and maybe a 'touch of jail.' Wonderful. So, the parents who bought their children’s education also get to buy their freedom. While other people who commit petty theft and minor drug charges spend years in prison because they are unable to afford a decent lawyer, the parents who stole another child’s chance at college admission, and ultimately their future, only have to pay a fine and do a bit of community service.
This scam is just one reason the education system needs to change its ways. If wealthy parents get to send their children to better schools while disadvantaged parents have no choice but to send their children to subpar schools, our society will always be unfair. To have an equal society, we must start with our children and their education.