When my husband and I sent our first son to college a decade ago, we collected aluminum cans to help pay for his textbooks. When the actor Felicity Huffman wanted to get her daughter into college, federal prosecutors say, she paid $15,000 to have someone “secretly correct” the teenager’s answers to the SAT.
Meanwhile, the actor Lori Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly spent $500,000 to get their daughters listed as potential recruits for the University of Southern California crew team, even though the girls had never taken part in the sport.
Our family didn’t have an extra half a million dollars to throw around, so instead we had to rely on our own meager resources. When you are poor, these are the kinds of “lucky breaks” you get: Because picking up litter happened to be part of my husband’s job as a custodian, and because our house happens to be located along a busy highway, there was always a fresh supply of tossed-away cans that we could sell to recycling companies for pennies a pound. Hey, you work with what you’ve got.
Huffman, Loughlin, and Giannulli are among dozens of people charged Tuesday in a massive fraud ring that, according to the U.S. Justice Department, allowed the rich and famous to game the admissions process at some of the nation’s top educational institutions. The scheme involved bribes, fraudulent SAT scores, fake athletic profiles, and other shady tactics. For those of us who have struggled to pay a tuition check or have literally overdrawn our bank account to pay college bills, this was just official confirmation of something we already suspected: Wealthy parents can pull strings and make backroom deals to open doors that would remain firmly closed to kids like ours.