Dozens of wealthy parents, including two Hollywood celebrities, were indicted earlier this week in connection with a scheme to get students admitted into top-tier universities.
The parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were among those accused of paying William Singer — the owner of Edge College & Career Network, a for-profit college admissions company — to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and falsify athletic records to ensure that the students were admitted into schools such as Yale, Stanford, University of Southern California and more.
Singer pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Boston to charges including money laundering, obstruction of justice, racketeering and conspiracy to defraud the United States, and cooperated with authorities during the investigation.
George Neely, a member of the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education, was upset “to no end” to hear about the fraud.
“It’s a slap in the face to our kids who work so hard to get to where they’re at,” Neely said. “We have kids who work so hard for this and to think that somebody with money can bypass all that work is just unfair. I’m floored by it, I don’t know what else to say.”
Jasmin Gill, one of the top-ranked seniors at Tokay High School, felt it was horrible that students who worked hard to get into prestigious schools had opportunities taken from them, especially as one of the students named in the fraud case reportedly said she only wanted to go to college to party.
“I think someone who worked hard should have gotten that spot, but because their parents didn’t have the resources and hers did, they didn’t,” Gill said.
Although Gill has not yet decided where she will attend college next year, she said she is considering an Ivy League school herself.
“I’m still looking at Yale, and maybe Stanford if I hear back from them,” Gill said.
Sam Wright, one of Lodi High School’s top-ranked seniors who plans to attend Harvard next fall, shared Gill’s sentiments.
“It’s really frustrating, it feels like kind of an insult to all the hard work I put in to know that money and power can get to where I worked so hard to get to,” Wright said. “I think here in Lodi, being a small farm town, historically we’ve had a distrust for rich and powerful people and this just reinforces the idea that they can get whatever they want.”
Ren Pham-Peck, a counselor at Bear Creek High School, was not at all surprised when she learned of the fraud.
“It’s not anything new,” Pham-Peck said. “It’s been going on forever, it’s just now been uncovered. What I’m going to do for my students when I get back (from spring break) is just try to calm their nerves.”