More College Admissions Scandals Are Coming, Says Author of Book on Varsity Blues

The conditions that led to one high-profile investigation still exist

Felicity Huffman at Federal Court in Boston
Felicity Huffman walks into the Moakley Federal Courthouse on May 13, 2019 in Boston.
Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via GettyImages

When the Varsity Blues scandal broke in 2019, it offered a shocking view of the lengths to which wealthy parents (including Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman) were willing to go to secure their children’s admission into elite colleges and universities. Many of its elements were compelling in their own right, but the combination of them provided a blend of schadenfreude and class anxiety for many observers.

While that specific investigation is now over, the underlying issues remain. That’s the argument that investigative reporter Nicole LaPorte makes in a new article at CrimeReads. LaPorte knows the Varsity Blues scandal well; she’s the author of the new book Guilty Admissions: The Bribes, Favors, and Phonies Behind the College Cheating Scandal.

LaPorte cites the fall 2020 revelation that Harvard’s fencing coach had accepted bribes — and the more muted response to it compared with coverage of the Varsity Blues scandal — as suggesting that, perhaps, the public has lost interest in cases like these. And she points out that Varsity Blues offered a kind of perfect storm of celebrities and charismatic figures that similar scandals might not.

“[T]he institutional and social elements that led to Varsity Blues still very much exist, meaning that we’ve hardly seen the last of college admissions scandals,” writes LaPorte. For many students looking to attend elite universities, athletics can be a way in, and many college athletic coaches of sports like crew or fencing aren’t terribly well-paid, making for a series of scandals waiting to happen. It’s something that offers much to ponder, especially when the next scandal along these lines emerges.

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