College admissions bribery touches Bay Area community
The Santa Clara
April 18, 2019
The national college admissions bribery scandal that caught the nation’s attention last month revealed the stressful and cutthroat experience many families go through these days when applying to colleges.
The massive spotlight that now shines on the college admissions process has universities that weren’t even directly involved— like Santa Clara—in the scandal are more cautious when they look at applications, especially for potential student-athletes.
“Just when you think you’ve seen everything in your 40 years of admissions, this athletic-admission scandal comes along,” Michael Sexton said, vice president for enrollment management at Santa Clara. “Even though no admission officers were implicated, it has caused us to defend what we do. Some make it sound like everyone with money has bought their way into college.”
Though Santa Clara was not one of the schools targeted by the scheme, many Santa Clara students went to high schools that employed the college consultant accused of taking bribes and paying off coaches.
The scandal also hit the NorCal community hard when the nation found out that 13 of the 50 people accused of taking part in the scheme were Bay Area parents.
According to an article published by KRON in March, the Bay Area parents included couples from San Francisco, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Hillsborough and Mill Valley.
Of the accused parents, many are wealthy business owners who allegedly worked with William Rick Singer, the man behind much of the scandal, to get their children into exclusive universities. Singer plead guilty to multiple federal charges in March.
Specifically, Singer was accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes to pay off corrupt athletic coaches and standardized test administrators to help get the children of clients into elite colleges.
According to the Associated Press, authorities say Singer was enriching himself by taking advantage of the anxieties that have turned tutoring and college admissions counseling into a $1 billion industry.
From hiring $1,000-an-hour tutors to multiple admissions and writing coaches, to pushing sports and community service, parents have given in to any number of pressures.
The Bay Area parents who worked with Singer donated tens of thousands of dollars each to Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF).
NBC Bay Area reported last month that federal investigators say, “KWF used payments from wealthy donors to hide large sums of money given to universities as part of the overall scheme to bribe college coaches and other officials.”
While the nation is now more aware than ever of the immense amount of stress that accompanies the college application process, this scandal has made applying for college an even tougher procedure — especially for potential studentathletes.
“As I spoke with some of my colleagues at the mentioned institutions, they expressed a feeling of betrayal from some athletic department employees with whom they’ve worked for over a decade,” Sexton said.
According to the NCAA, “Divisions I and II schools provide more than $2.9 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 150,000 student-athletes.”
In terms of Santa Clara’s vetting process of athletes, Sexton says he is confident in the university’s athletic department, as it’s required to certify team rosters for the NCAA. This is another way fraud can be detected.
“At SCU, we have half as many varsity teams as most of the institutions named and only a few percent of each class are recruited student-athletes,” Sexton said about Santa Clara’s athlete enrollment process. “Our current system has coaches funnel names of recruits through one assistant director of athletics. She conveys these to a senior associate director of admission.”
The process of providing real athletes with financial support is now under public scrutiny and some athletes who worked hard to get their scholarships are appalled.
“I think the best word to describe that is frustrating,” Akahi Troske said, a Santa Clara junior and student-athlete. “For most aspiring collegiate athletes, the college recruitment process is grueling, involving tons of time and effort. To hear your spot might have been taken illegally is extremely frustrating.”
Contact Kimi Andrew at kandrew@scu. edu or call (408) 554-4852.