The normally quiet world of college admissions was rocked this week with a major college admission scandal. The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston indicted 50 people including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin in a scam to obtain entrance for their children into select colleges including “Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA, Yale, University of Texas, University of San Diego, University of Southern California and Wake Forest.” This scheme involved bribery of various people including athletic coaches and entrance exam administrators. The fraudulent activity included cheating on the ACT and SAT exams as well as faking athletic profiles for students who were not athletes. At this point, it seems the children were not aware of their parents activities. Huge sums of money were funneled from wealthy families through a fake non-profit operated by the alleged mastermind of the scheme, William Rick Singer who has “pled guilty to charges of racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of justice.”
This scandal puts a spotlight on the lack of transparency and fairness in the college admissions and financial aid system. As we are learning, this process is fraught with “back door” and so called “side door” scams for the super wealthy. For the rest of us, being an informed consumer of higher education is all we can do to stack the chips in our favor. This scandal makes for great headlines, but by in large these are isolated incidents.
There is no magic wand we can wave, but we can raise the bar in college funding advice. It isn’t about trying to cheat the system. It is about demystifying the financial aid process and being an informed consumer that gives our clients an advantage operating within the rules. Don’t let the headlines deter you from helping normal families pursue a great education. Now is the time to step up and ensure that all students graduate with manageable student loan debt without robbing mom and dad’s retirement. Let’s end the student loan crisis one family at a time!