5 admissions scandals that rocked the college world

charles and jared kushnerPatrick McMullan/Getty Images

  • The college admissions scandal that broke in March 2019 is hardly the first of its kind.
  • There's a long history of lying, cheating, and greasing palms to get into a top school.
  • For example, Harvard reportedly has a list of legacy students who may be less likely to need financial aid.

When a college-admissions scandal breaks, it typically shocks students, parents, and educators. But it happens more often than you might think.

Sometimes parents make donations to elite schools, presumably so their kids will have a better shot at admittance. Other times schools themselves show favor to the children of alumni, or of otherwise wealthy and powerful figures.

Below, we've listed five of the most salacious college-admissions scandals from recent memory.
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Harvard University was accused of favoring the children of alumni in admissions

Harvard University was accused of favoring the children of alumni in admissions

Among Harvard students in the classes of 2014 to 2019, about 50 to 60 students each year were admitted off the "Z-list," according to the New York Times, meaning they had to defer their enrollment for one year. But plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Harvard say many of these students are legacies, meaning their parents attended Harvard, and might not otherwise make the cut.

A 2010 article published in the Harvard Crimson said that 18 of 28 Z-listers interviewed had parents who attended Harvard, and that 24 received no financial aid from the college. (The Crimson reported that about 70% of Harvard's student body received financial aid.)

Harvard's admissions staff has said the Z-list is not a way to admit legacy students.

Charles Kushner pledged $2.5 million to Harvard before his son Jared was admitted

Charles Kushner pledged $2.5 million to Harvard before his son Jared was admitted

In "The Price of Admission," Daniel Golden reported that Charles Kushner, the New Jersey real estate developer and Jared Kushner's father, had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University before Jared was admitted.

Golden spoke to administrators at Kushner's high school, who remembered him as a mediocre student. However, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies told Golden that there was no connection between Charles Kushner's gift and Jared Kushner's admission.

The University of Illinois was accused of admitting students who had political connections

The University of Illinois was accused of admitting students who had political connections

The University of Illinois was accused of admitting students with political connections over students who were more qualified. The scandal led to the resignation of president Joseph B. White, who denied that he favored applicants with political clout, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

A Louisiana school submitted false information to get students into Ivy League schools

A Louisiana school submitted false information to get students into Ivy League schools

In 2018, the New York Times reported that a small school in Louisiana, whose students were mostly black and working class, had made up information about student achievements to get them into elite colleges. One student interviewed by the Times had no idea the school had lied; others were instructed to lie on their own applications.

The Landrys, the couple who founded the school, denied fabricating student stories.

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