Updated at 12:44 p.m. ET on March 13, 2019.
The actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among 50 people—including 33 wealthy parents, college-prep executives, a college administrator, two ACT/SAT administrators, and nine college coaches—charged Tuesday in what Department of Justice officials called the largest college cheating scam it has ever prosecuted. The FBI alleged that parents spent up to $6.5 million to guarantee their children’s admission to elite universities by inflating entrance-exam scores and bribing college officials.
Loughlin and her husband allegedly paid “bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew.” The FBI alleged, “In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for this cheating.”
It’s the extreme, illegal version of what parents often do, attempting to bend the college-admissions system to their will to ensure their children’s privilege, convinced that a college name will lead to “success.” Indeed, Loughlin’s husband emailed a cooperating witness that he wanted to “make sure we have a roadmap for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU!” Parents have told me over the years that they expend so much energy and so many resources on college admissions because they believe an elite school will make their kids happy or give them an edge in life. But the misleading focus on a “roadmap to success” not only isn’t a guarantee of either result—it’s also terrible for kids.