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United States: Largest college admissions scandal

EducationWorld April 2019 | International News

US government investigators have charged dozens of people — including celebrities, business leaders and sports coaches — over allegations that bribes were paid to admit favoured students in elite universities. FBI spokespersons trace the scandal back to 2011, involving coaches, testing officials and private admissions counsellors who allegedly accepted millions of dollars in bribes to falsify student applicants’ sporting and academic credentials to secure them admission into top-ranked universities including Yale, Stanford and Georgetown, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California.

Among celebrities charged with offering and accepting bribes are television actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin; former Yale women’s soccer coach Rudolph Meredith; Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer; USC women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin, USC women’s water polo coach Jovan Vavic, USC associate athletics director Donna Heinel, and representatives of the College Board.

Their case represents the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the justice department, according to Andrew Lelling, top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts. The charges are that nearly four dozen people, including actors and corporate leaders, paid as much as $6 million (Rs.41.3 crore) to smuggle their children into elite universities, says the FBI. In some cases, coaches fraudulently certified and admitted students under the sports quota. In several cases, officials responsible for college admissions tests obligingly provided false scores.

“These allegations depict a culture of corruption and greed,” Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, told the media. “You can’t lie and cheat to get ahead because you will get caught,” he warns.

However, federal officials haven’t implicated higher level administrators of elite colleges.

(Excerpted and adapted from The Economist and Times Higher Education)

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