Freshman Says: When It Comes to College, Not Enough Separates Family, Money in Admissions


The Benjamin School

Leah Klein, Staff Writer

Oftentimes, people hold the view that wealth has a great influence on the opportunities presented to those who are affluent. Unfortunately, college admissions is no exception, and is one of the most important opportunities that opens the doors to many pathways for the next chapters of life.

Since 2011, a considerable number of college admission scandals have been uncovered. Federal prosecutors have charged more than fifty parents of violating the honest services law, which is an intangible right that protects the public from an artifice or scheme that deprives someone of honest services. At least thirty parents have pleaded guilty on account of this. In 2019, an operation took place under the code name of Operation Varsity Blues to investigate criminal conspiracies arising that influenced undergraduate admissions at prestigious universities across the United States. 

Among the millions paid by parents to obtain acceptance by top-tier colleges for their children, Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli paid William “Rick” Singer a great sum of $500,000 to admit their two daughters. They are only one of the nearly 800 families that Singer worked with, making more than $28 million from his frauds. 

Bribery involved with college admission processes is clearly honest services fraud. It is neither ethically or morally right for parents to use their wealth to heavily influence their child’s acceptance to a college. Not only is it outright unjust, but it deprives another student’s right to being accepted, therefore depriving them of honest services. Applications would fail to be merit-based, and some students would instead be admitted as a result of their parent’s wealth. 

However, it is not to say that even without bribery, college admissions is not already influenced whatsoever by wealth. It is undoubtedly laced with favoritism for the rich, both in subtle and unsubtle forms. 

Those related to major donors, including alumni, already receive favorable treatment from colleges. Legal forms of influencing college admissions with wealth exist as well. Private college-admissions counselors can be hired for high prices to edit, rewrite, and even write student’s admission essays or coach them intensively through the admissions process. There are colleges that do not meet full need-based financial aid so that those who are unable to pay for college can go. This additional wealth of families already increases the chances for students to get admitted to a college.

“​​A family’s ability to make a substantial donation is one of many admissions factors, in addition to grades and test scores, that schools typically consider,” says the Los Angeles times. “The practical considerations that lead schools to prefer applicants from rich families are real. Universities’ costs have risen dramatically over the past few decades. Colleges compete more vigorously for students, and the quality of facilities can affect enrollment decisions,” wrote Ralph Richard Banks.

Despite parent’s attempts to ensure success in their child’s life by using bribery to gain acceptance into a renowned school, success does not only originate from prestigious schools. Many people of remarkable achievements have come from colleges that are not commonly heard of or considered reputable. In addition, a spot in college does not guarantee students will, without exception, pass all of their classes. The contributions that students make to a university in terms of purpose and commitment is also more important than simply the acceptance there. “Buying” a spot in a school undermines the student’s ability to succeed based on their own merit and abilities.

Students who are accepted to a college on account of their admissions being influenced in any way by wealth’s presence at colleges are based on fraud, preventing other students with legitimate credentials from being accepted, violating the honest services fraud. 

The many wealthy and celebrity parents that have been uncovered to have been involved in college admissions scandals by bribing the admissions processes or coaches to lie and commit fraud in order to have their child accepted serve as a lesson to show that bribery does not go without consequence. 

William Singer is being held accountable for his actions, now facing up to sixty-five years in prison with a fine of $1.25 million for his part in the Operation Varsity Blues criminal conspiracy. Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months in jail with a $150,000 fine after pleading guilty to the scandal she was involved in. Her husband, Mossimo Giannulli also completed time in prison, and was also given two weeks of home confinement for his collaboration in Operation Varsity Blues. 

Not only is it unfortunate that the lack of equal opportunity is caused by many systemic issues such as racism and the issues that come with an already implemented socioeconomic status, but the latter is further fostered by those who have the potential to change this divide. As Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Those who are wealthy have the power, now, they must fulfill their responsibilities.