A college admissions scandal is rocking the country.

Wealthy parents, some of them celebrities, are accused of paying thousands of dollars, even over a million dollars, in bribes to get their children into prestigious schools.

The indictment said one teenage girl who didn’t even play soccer was made to look like a soccer star. Her parents paid a $1.2 million bribe hoping to get her enrolled at Yale.

There were 50 people charged in six states, none of them in Tennessee.

The scandal raises the issue of just how competitive admissions are to elite colleges and how much pressure there is to get good test scores.

Actress Felicity Huffman, TV star Lori Loughlin, and her husband, a fashion-designer, were some of the big names in the scandal.

The Justice Department said William Singer, the founder of a California college prep school, helped students cheat on standardized tests.

Prosecutors said wealthy parents paid Singer’s company $25 million in bribes, money funneled to the coaches who could get them into college with fake athletic credentials, in one case photo-shopping a student’s image to create a star athlete.

Maurie Ponder is the assistant director of the Learning Lab. For years she has tutored students to help them get better ACT scores.

“I really think what this underscores, the level of pressure and how competitive things have gotten with the college admissions landscape across the country, especially with the most elite colleges and universities,” said Ponder.

For some universities with single-digit acceptance rates, she said perfect ACT scores are pretty much required to get in.

“Part of what blows my mind is that 99 percent of us didn’t go to Harvard and we’re fine,” she said.

No Tennessee parents, schools or testing centers were named in this scandal.

Vanderbilt University said it only accepts 7 percent of the students who apply.

The school said its admission process has a number of checks and balances, including reviews by multiple admission officers, and confirming information with high school guidance counselors.

The full statement released by Vanderbilt University:

“Vanderbilt University firmly believes in ensuring access to education for all qualified students on the basis of an individual applicant’s complete and factual record. We have worked for more than a decade to ensure the nation’s brightest students, regardless of socio-economic status, can have access to a Vanderbilt education. We are troubled by the recent allegations that some individuals have sought to deceptively tilt the college admissions process at other universities in their favor.

“We vet all of our applicants as thoroughly as possible to ensure that we are providing access and opportunity in line with our admissions requirements. We strive to establish an accurate and holistic picture of each applicant - working closely with high school guidance counselors and confirming, to the extent possible, that information provided by prospective students and their families is legitimate.

“Our admissions process has a number of checks and balances intended to prevent the serious matter of admissions fraud, chief among them is a multi-step process that includes review by multiple admissions officers. We believe in integrity and fairness, and should we discover someone has misrepresented their application, there would be serious ramifications.”

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 I-Team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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