CORONA DEL MAR (CBSLA) — As a wave of college acceptance letters arrives at homes across Orange County this month, students and parents are feeling dejected by the news that hours of hard work and tons of talent or potential can still be eclipsed by money.

Students say they already knew that big donations could help increase an applicant’s chances of getting admitted to their college of choice, but the scale of the college admissions scandal that has ensnared several coaches from elite universities and dozens of wealthy parents – including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin – is unheard of.

“I think it’s pretty crazy that people here work so hard, and then some people from other places can just …pay in to get into a college that they want to get to,” high school junior Kyla Ramirez said.

Federal officials on Tuesday laid out a sprawling racketeering conspiracy case that involved a Newport Beach businessman who admitted to arranging bribes, helping students cheat on the SATs and ACTs, and faking profiles to help students get admitted into athletic programs even when they didn’t play the sport. The case has led to the arrest of nine coaches from universities including USC, UCLA, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown and 33 mostly wealthy parents.

“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said Tuesday.

The lengths that these parents went to in order to get their children into elite universities shortchanges everyone, high school senior Ty Thabit said.

“High school is a time for kids to kind of venture out and experience what they want to do, and try out new things, and try to figure out where they want the path to go, where they want their future,” he said. “I think when a parent is kind of controlling, commandeering, it’s unfair to the kid, and it’s also unfair to everyone else.”

Students and parents already spend thousands of hours and a fortune on the ultimate goal of being accepted to a dream college – whether it be through an investment in a sport or by purchasing the services of expensive tutors. So the news that wealthy parents can illegally grease their children’s way has many students and parents feeling outraged.

“This calculated scheme to buy your way into a university is absolutely deflating, disheartening, disturbing,” former PTA president and parent Carol Crane said.

Admissions has become a cutthroat process, says Anise Guzman, who was upset about the scandal even though she has already graduated from college.

“It’s terrible, it’s unfair,” she said. “People work really hard to get into school. It’s very competitive now, and it doesn’t make it equal for people. It’s not right.”

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