LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Two Stanford students say their degrees have been devalued by the scheme that authorities say bribed school officials, faked athletic profiles and cheated on tests in order to gain admission to elite colleges for the children of wealthy families.
In the lawsuit filed against USC, UCLA, Stanford, and other universities, Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods say that despite their stellar test scores, athletic skills and accolades, they did not get a fair chance at admission to Yale or USC, and their Stanford degrees will now be questioned due to the university’s inclusion in the scandal.
Also named in the lawsuit was William “Rick” Singer, the founder of Edge College and Career Network and the Newport Beach businessman federal prosecutors say was the mastermind of the scheme to arrange bribes, help students cheat on the SATs and ACTs, and fake profiles to help students get admitted through athletic programs, even when they didn’t play the sport.
So far, nine coaches from universities – including USC and UCLA – have been arrested, along with 33 mostly wealthy parents ranging from actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin to CEOs of private and public companies.
Olsen, who in the lawsuit claims to have had stellar standardized test scores and was a dancer who qualified for the Stanford elite dancing squad, claims she would not have paid the $80 application fee to Yale if she knew the “process of admission was an unfair, rigged process, in which rich parents could buy their way into the university through bribery.”
Likewise, Woods paid $85 to apply to USC, believing her high test scores and her athletic skills would earn her a “fair admissions consideration.”
Both plaintiffs say their degrees are now not worth as much as it was before because of the scandal and that employers may now question whether they were admitted on their own merits, or if they had parents willing to bribe school officials.
The lawsuit names UCLA, USC, University of San Diego, Stanford, University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, Georgetown and Yale and seeks certification to include anyone who paid to apply to these universities between 2012 and 2018. The complaint seeks at least $5 million on behalf of what could be thousands of plaintiffs.
“People who allowed this to happen should be held accountable,” says Tyler Bendis.
The 19-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita man says he plans to join the lawsuit. Bendis is attending community college now, after taking AP classes, starting a club, competing in pole vaulting, scoring a high ACT score and graduating last year with a 4.0.
“At least I thought I did everything right, and I did everything that I could to get in,” he said. “Knowing people got in just by paying the money, it’s just not fair.”
A second lawsuit was also filed Thursday by a Bay Area parent. Kay Toy is suing the parents implicated in the scheme for $500 billion.
(A previous version of this post incorrectly identified UC San Diego as one of the universities named in the lawsuit.)