Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal

The college admission scandal was a hot and juicy news item for a minute. Rick Singer was getting rich kids into college through a “side door” called money. Money paid to Singer inflated test scores while bribes to college coaches went to fabricating phony athletic profiles for the prospective student, allowing the coach to “recruit” them. Kids who stood no chance of getting admitted into a good college were now strolling right through a side door thanks to mommy and daddy’s wallet. This got a lot of play in the media because it meant rich white people were scamming a system already designed to highly favour them. There was not a lot of sympathy in the story (except maybe for the clueless kids whose own parents knew them to be too dumb to earn anything meritoriously). Plus the whiff of disgraced celebrities (Lori Laughlin, Felicity Huffman) was hard to resist.

This documentary enlists a host of actors including Matthew Modine and Josh Stamberg to reenact an FBI investigation that went after not just kingpin Rick Singer, but the bribed officials and the shady parents as well.

What it does particularly well, and makes it worth the watch, is keeping its target on the “victim” of these crimes, the colleges themselves. The true victims are of course the many applicants who were refused because their rightful places were taken by undeserving kids, but in the court’s eyes, it was the colleges who were defrauded. But as the documentary cleverly points out, the colleges have not only benefited (and not been required to pay back the bribes) from the situation, they’re the ones who created it. The side door was used primary by rich families who weren’t quite rich enough to use the back door that American colleges and universities leave purposefully propped open. Donations of about $10 million tend to net candidates preferential admissions consideration. And that’s to say nothing of the problematic front door, where the most elite schools are only accessible only to those rich enough to pay the exorbitant fees, privileged enough to attend schools that adequately prepare them, and white enough to ace culturally-biased entrance exams. The law may have let these schools off the hook, but Operation Varsity Blues does not.

5 thoughts on “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal

  1. Carol

    As the mother of twins who are high school seniors, there is so much about the college and test-prep industries that make my blood boil. The standardize tests like the ACT/SAT have become a joke. Parents with higher incomes pay for their kids to take specialized classes that will prepare them for the tests and some go as far as hiring personal test-prep tutors. Perhaps this isn’t as bad as hiring someone to take your kid’s exam for them but it comes close. The tests no longer show what kids have managed to learn for themselves or in school (which can also vary widely depending on the community). More and more, they simply indicate which kids have parents that push them and pay for them to receive extra preparation.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. ninvoid99

    I’m not sure if I want to see this though the subject matter is interesting. At least Felicity Huffman admitted to her guilt and did her time while is actually trying to make things right unlike Lori Loughlin and her entitled little bitch of a daughter.


  3. Liz A.

    I saw this pop up on Netflix the other day. I wondered if it was worth it. I might have to check it out. (And there’s nothing wrong with state schools. While people spend so much money on these elite schools and go into debt for them, a nice state school will give you the same education for a fraction of the price. If we stopped caring about the “name”, these sorts of things wouldn’t matter.)


  4. Birgit

    I would love to see this documentary but is it surprising? Nope! This has been going on for a very long time. The first comment made me think of The Blind Side because they hired that woman(Kathy Bates) to tutor the kid and it sounds like the same thing Carol is mentioning.

    Liked by 1 person


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