Land of Dreams… Or Cheats? Check Out This US College Admissions Scandal


They say money can’t buy happiness…. But only if you think admission in Stanford or Yale is not happiness

They say everything is possible in the US, the land of dreams. And the saying becomes truer if you own the right amount of cash. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has unearthed a fresh US college admissions scandal involving millions of dollars and some noted personalities in America, revealing how the rich connived and used big bucks to get their children enrolled in top colleges in America.

This might not be news for many in Pakistan, where bribery is part and parcel of our daily lives and is as normal in the Pakistani culture as cricket, chai and chapatti. But the development might come as a surprise or even a shock to those Pakistanis who cite the US and its love of meritocracy each time an argument breaks out about the rotten governance system in our country.

As the new scandal was unearthed, the FBI indicted 50 people in six US states of using cash to get their children into top colleges across the US, including Stanford, Yale, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest and Georgetown.

Those charged by FBI is the latest US college admissions scandal included Hollywood celebrities and leading businessmen, and investigators hinted that there could be more indictments on the way.

In a striking similarity to how things happen in Pakistan, most of these well-heeled parents in the US went down the “sports” route to get admissions secured for the their children.

In a striking similarity to how things happen in Pakistan, most of these well-heeled parents went down the “sports” route to get admissions secured for the their children. It is a common and known practice in Pakistan as well, where parents grease the palms of officials to get their kids through to top public universities and colleges on basis of their sporting prowess.

Olivia Jade and Lori Loughlin in College Admission Bribery Scandal resources1
Actress Lori Loughlin is accused of getting her daughter placed at a top US college through fraudulent practices, including bribing officials.

Almost all universities around the world want to attract the top academic and sporting talent and offer various admission quotas in this regard. That’s fine. What is not is manipulating the system and letting undeserving youngsters slip through.

That’s what the parents involved in the US college admissions scandal did. They offered millions of dollars as incentives to college athletic coaches to help get undeserving students through to some of the most sought after colleges and universities in the US by depicting them as top athletes. The parents charged include the likes of television star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli as well as actress Felicity Huffman. Loughlin has already surrendered to the authorities.

Tough Calling

Some analysts believe the malpractices have occurred because college admissions have become ever so competitive. But that’s a really unreasonable excuse for cheating on anyone’s part. Also, the crime is cheating done twice. For one, the parents and their children broke the law, which is a crime in the first place. And second, they deprived dozens of deserving students miss out on the opportunity of studying at the university they deserved to be at based on their well-earned credentials.

The US authorities said students were mostly unaware of their parents’ bribery in the admissions process. But to be serious, this claim has be taken with a pinch of salt. How can a girls who has never played soccer suddenly find herself enrolled at Yale on the basis of her soccer skills? The authorities’ claim that the students did know of their parents’ shenanigans appear out of kilter and might just be an effort to keep the youngsters away from indictment and legal penalties that could harm their prospects in the future.

The US attorney for District of Massachusetts, Andrew E Lelling told a news conference that the parents were “the prime movers of this fraud”. “The real victims in this case are the hardworking students”, he said, explaining how they were outperformed by “far less qualified students and their families who simply bought their way in”.

So it’s established. Money does get you far. And that far could be quite afar before someone like FBI even begins to take notice. And still you can get away with it, as has been the case with the children of the rich parents involved in the US college admissions scandal who got admissions at top colleges. Their parents have been charged, but the students get away with enjoying the perks of their folks’ monetary influence.

And that is the worst kind of salt one can rub into the wounds of the deserving students who missed out.


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