What we can Actually study from the Varsity Blues Academic Scandal [Guest Post]


By becoming far better informed about the current scandal about wealthy parents purchasing or cheating their way into college placements for their young children, churches have the chance to aid their higher college students—and especially students who are persons of color—better comprehend and prepare for college entrance processes.

Take a study of this guest essay by a seminary-educated education skilled who walks us via the myriad challenges in the scandal.


What we can Actually study from the “Operation Varsity Blues” Academic Scandal

Pauline E. Jennett

Low-earnings backgrounds currently underrepresented

How a great deal can a $40,000 bribe from a wealthy household invest in in selective undergraduate admissions nowadays?

A increasing physique of analysis demonstrates that admittance to selective colleges generally leads to improved social status, greater earnings, and enhanced job possibilities.(Bowen, 1998, Avery, 2003). A report by Georgetown University entitled “Separate &amp Unequal” (Carnevale, 2013) asserts “African-American and Latino youth—especially these from low-earnings backgrounds—are underrepresented at the nation’s 468 most selective 4-year colleges and overrepresented at the three,250 open-access two- and 4-year institutions.”

That is why the quantity $40,000 holds so a great deal which means $40,000 is the typical household earnings for the non-profit plan participants in the outstanding organization, that I researched for my graduate thesis, that coached low-earnings, 1st-generationf higher college students to achieve entry to college. Let it sink in for a moment…that quantity is actually much less than ten % of the quantity that Lori Loughlin, embattled defendant, mother, Hallmark and Fuller Residence media darling spent to bribe USC on behalf of her social media star daughter, Olivia Jade and her sister to demonstrate they have been stellar student athletes. In reality, “Loughlin and her husband allegedly paid $500,000 for a confirmed acceptance to the University of Southern California for each of their daughters. Fake athletic profiles linking them to crew teams solidified their acceptance.”[1]

Why does star athleticism matter?

Historically, athlete scholars have been a further door to raise the access to selective college admittance. But all athletic endeavors are not equal.  “Low earnings strivers” generally face a deficit in access to greater priced extracurricular activities, as “affluent households have tripled the quantity by which they outspend low-earnings households on enrichment activities like sports, music lessons and summer time camps, according to Professor Duncan and Prof. Richard Murnane of Harvard.” (DeParle, 2012) Activities such as sophisticated musical coaching and athletic competitors such as lacrosse, tennis, swimming, equestrian, and gymnastics, are the talents that upper-class parents actively cultivate in their offspring to yield admittance to competitive colleges such as Amherst, Williams, Duke, UCLA, Yale, Boston University and NYU. In addition, pick collegiate institutions have been not established for minorities nor low-earnings students they have been initially made for an elite White European ruling class, and “as creators of policies and practices, their benefits accrue more than generations, in the type of loved ones wealth, that serve to continue the benefit even right after the a lot more overt discriminatory practices have been eliminated” (Coleman, 2006). These sources straight translate into possibilities to engage in a lot more elite extracurricular activities at a extremely young age, which makes it possible for sophisticated levels of knowledge through higher college years.  Varsity Blues knew this selective technique effectively and aimed to cheat the technique via close alliances with tennis, soccer and crew coaches.

This certain admissions scandal held certain significance for me given that I have spent ten years studying or practicing in the field of graduate and collegiate admissions. As an African female who was also a 1st-generation college graduate, I comprehend the possibilities and doors that can open or close primarily based on the college or university you attend. I worked as an associate director of admissions for Harvard Organization College, and private admissions consultant for selective graduate business enterprise schools and my Dissertation entitled, Understanding Selective College Access for Minority, Low-Earnings Higher College students immersed me in more than 100 analysis sources on the greater education admissions landscape The national college advising plan that I studied does great function advising and coaching low-earnings students, to enter colleges as diverse as Brown University, Boston University,  Emory, the University of Massachusetts and Williams College which tends to make it a lot more dismaying to study that the proceeds of this admissions fraud “was run below a fake charity named Crucial Worldwide Foundation, which was functioning below the pretense that contributions went to aid “underserved children.””[2]

My doctoral analysis tested H. Coleman’s (2006) Minority Student Achievement Model to demonstrate that considerable individual variables such as academic capability, diligent use of sources, perseverance, and strategic involvement in youth improvement initiatives, combined with a prosperous college contextual intervention, have been considerable indicators concerning these student’s admittance to selective colleges. As I reflect on the tough function and lengthy hours that these students exhibited via truthful extracurricular pursuits, right after college college advising applications, and intensive study sessions for their standardized testing exams such as the SAT, I was so disheartened to hear of this exorbitant scandal to cheat the extremely fabric of the complete undergraduate admissions technique.  

It is critical to note, that even as selective colleges develop into a lot more racially and ethnically diverse, they stay economically homogenous, serving predominantly students of affluent households, and failing to assistance aspirations for upward mobility (Ward, 2005, Kean, 2006, Kahlenberg, 2010, Reardon, 2013). As a outcome, even when colleges and universities highlight the significance of “diversifying” their student population, they generally fail to open doors to students who can not open them on their personal – that is students who are intellectually talented, but lack the sources (e.g., legacy, academic coaches, loved ones assistance) that are routinely drawn upon by their economically privileged peers, with the outcome that these much less privileged but equally talented students continue to be closed out of the admission course of action. 

Amongst my peers, I also reflect on the function accomplished by Dario Collado, Director of Strategic Improvement, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, through his time at Harvard Kennedy College exactly where he notes he “fostered The Harvard Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI) which brought collectively Latino students or students that wanted to serve the Latino neighborhood to the Harvard campus for intense summer time Leadership coaching. These students came from UC Merced, Miami Dade College, CUNY, UMass Boston, RGV in Texas and other schools with massive Latino student population. The astounding benefits incorporated numerous LLI students themselves admitted to Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania for graduate college. The sad reality is numerous 1st Gen students self-pick themselves out of leading schools for the reason that they just do not feel they can get into leading schools. Some people are placing their funds toward truthful endeavors the outstanding Harvard LLI function has led to a $20 million-dollar endowment present for what is now the Harvard Latino Leadership Fellowship.”

Who tends to make the admission choices?

A essential component of the Operation Varsity Bribe technique was finding inside access to administrators who could influence the admissions course of action. One more greater education administrator, Natascha F Saunders, CEO/Founder, The Youth Profession Coach Inc.who also served on an admissions committee at a further leading elite institution in Boston was reminded “of the lack of the diversity that existed on the committee. She even observed different choice committees that choose which students are accepted for prestigious internships and how these producing the choices are not racially, ethnically, educationally, or economically diverse.  This is certainly a travesty for the reason that if the marginally disadvantaged are admitted they face a litany of challenges not just upon entry, but also upon exit.” The reality is Admissions officers generally closely reflect the institutions that employ them.  For instance, historically, through an “era in which most folks going to elite colleges have been from socially elite households, admission officers have been themselves mainly from elite families” (Sternberg, 2010). It becomes a further unsurmountable barrier when illegal bribes are drawn into a technique that generally currently has the odds stacked against low-earnings potential students. 

So, what can church, and neighborhood non-profit organizations do in the wake of this scandal?

  1. Oprah generally states her 1st speaking exposure was reciting her vacation speeches in Church. Continue to expose adolescents to extracurricular activities such as drama, choir and youth group leadership and speaking engagements, or sports competitions. These are all desirable components for college applications.
  2. My freshman year math calculus textbook was paid for by the NIYC Church of God college scholarship fund. Set aside organization funds to assistance college books, travel, pc purchases and travel abroad costs. 
  3. Make use of your current peer networks. Set up panels for current college students or church parishioners, and employees to share their college application course of action. Share their failures and successes to aid future generations get into college the proper way!

In summary, the actual tragedy of this scandal is not the parents that have been caught embroiled in this admissions fraud but the seats that have been stolen and snatched from students whose household earnings are a fraction of a single bribe. The tough-functioning students who may perhaps have been denied a seat at the table of a single of these selective colleges for the reason that of greed, deceit, and ego.

Shame on all of the participants involved. We can and will have to do far better. 


  • Carnevale, A. P., &amp Strohl, J. (2013). Separate and unequal: How greater education reinforces the intergenerational reproduction of White racial privilege.Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce.  Retrieved from https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content material/uploads/2014/11/SeparateUnequal.FR_.pdf
  • Coleman, H.L.K., (2006).  Minority student achievement:  A resilient outcome?  In Zinga, D. (ed.). Navigating Multiculturalism: Negotiating Alter(pp. 296–326). Cambridge Scholars Press.
  • DeParle, J. (2012). For poor, leap to college generally ends in a tough fall. The New York Occasionssix.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (2010). College admissions for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


[1]Kirkland, Justin, The Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman College Admissions Scam Is So Considerably Larger Than Two Celebrities, Mar 12, 2019

[2]Kirkland, Justin, The Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman College Admissions Scam Is So Considerably Larger Than Two Celebrities, Mar 12, 2019

About the Authors 

Principal Author: Pauline Jennett, EdD 

  • Previously in sales and promoting management roles with Coca-Cola, Gillette, Procter &amp Gamble, and IBM., Dr. Jennett was a Baruch Scholar, and earned her MBA degree from The Wharton College. In addition, she has a doctorate in education and Master of Divinity degree cum laude from Boston University. Dr. Jennett has traveled to 36 nations on five continents, 

Contributing Authors

  • Dario Collado, Director of Strategic Improvement, Hispanic Heritage Foundation
  • Natascha Saunders, CEO/Founder, The Youth Profession Coach Inc, aiming to prepare students and young adults to start off, excel, and navigate their careers.’ 


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