A Case of Varsity Blues

By Tom Vogel

Felicity Huffman

Felicity Huffman

Lori Loughlin

Lori Loughlin

As you are aware by now, the FBI has uncovered a $25 million operation where wealthy parents have paid for their children to cheat their way into some of the “best” colleges in the country. Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are just some of the people named in this scandal.

Now, higher education institutions are under pressure to take a close look at the many students who received unfair advantage, as well as their own admissions practices. USC just announced that students involved in the admissions scandal are prevented from registering for classes and getting transcripts until the investigation is completed. Some other universities affected by the scheme (UCLA, University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University) are either planning to take no action or still investigating.

Fraud is not new to education, but the current college admissions fraud is much bigger. The FBI arrested 33 parents, charged with paying millions of dollars to bribe their children’s way into eight colleges. The fraud was allegedly orchestrated by a California consultant, William Singer, who says he also collaborated with hundreds of other parents. He arranged for certain college athletic administrators to take bribes to “recruit” students who were not even varsity athletes. He Photoshopped the students’ faces onto other athletes’ bodies to demonstrate the athletic prowess of his clients.

The saddest part of this sordid affair is that these children of super-wealthy parents have been taught that they have different laws and rules than everyone else, and that they never have to actually work to achieve success.  These entitled children are the biggest victims here. Instead, their parents could have instilled values of honesty, hard work and high personal academic expectations.

At Vogel Prep, we help lots of students with diagnosed learning disabilities prepare for ACT and SAT testing. Almost all of them take the tests with time-and-a-half extended time. A few get double-time (6 hours to take the 3-hour test), a level reserved for the more serious learning issues. Mr. Singer allegedly coached parents to have their children go after double extended time accommodations, even if they didn’t have qualified learning disabilities.  He wanted the students to have that high-level accommodation because it would allow them to take the test in a private setting where the bribed proctor could easily doctor their answers and increase their scores. Even in today’s world of big-time fraud, it’s a new low to systematically abuse an accommodation that helps students who have a legitimate issue with standardized testing.

The college admissions process — including ACT and SAT testing and college admissions consulting — is filled with high expectations and stress. At Vogel Prep of Scottsdale, we support our students and their parents as they manage the process responsibly.

Thanks to Ivan Mervis of Dogwood Tutoring in Atlanta for his major contribution to this article.