College admissions scandal: What were the motivating factors?

I was catching up on the news of the past week, and came across numerous articles about the college admissions scandal that has unfolded recently. NPR published a detailed summary here:

In short, 50 people (and counting) are accused of various crimes committed as part of an 18-year scheme in which wealthy parents paid William Singer to help ensure that their children would be accepted to elite universities. In some cases, Singer bribed athletic coaches to falsely claim that the children were being recruited for their teams. In others, he arranged to have somebody else take their SAT tests and/or bribed test administrators to help improve their scores. In still others, he assisted them in getting extra time for tests by falsely claiming to have learning disabilities. Along with Singer, the list of accused includes several former coaches, test administrators, and well-known clients who paid large sums for Singer’s services.

As details emerge, news articles describing or responding to specific components of the scandal have also emerged. For example, students with learning disabilities and those who advocate for them have publicly called the accused out for taking advantage of unjustified accomodations, and explained how this can make it more difficult for students who do need extra time or privacy to get it (

NPR also published an article on whether or not admission to elite universities was correlated to higher income and higher satisfaction later on ( There is some evidence that students who graduate from one of these schools have a higher income, but their chosen major was a much stronger predictor of future income. Interestingly, satisfaction and fulfillment were not tied to college selectivity in the study discussed in the NPR article.

In the coming months of investigation, I’m very interested to learn more about whether or not the parents involved in the scandal were primarily motivated to help their kids have a better future, or whether more selfish factors (i.e. social status, exclusive reputation, etc.) led them to cheat the system. I’m also interested to see what happens to the students who were admitted under false pretenses, many of whom were supposedly unaware of their parents’ illegitimate assistance. Will they be allowed to stay at the universities? Will they face criminal charges as well? If they have graduated, will their diplomas be rescinded?

What do you all think? Should the admitted students be punished along with their parents? Or should we give them the benefit of the doubt? Will the negative publicity and humiliation of knowing they were admitted under false pretenses hurt their futures more than the illegitimate admissions may have helped them?

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