It Begins: Students Sue Elite Colleges Over Bribery Scandal

Class action lawsuit expected to rack up "thousands" of plaintiffs.

Olivia Jade Giannulli, Lori Loughlin and Isabella Rose Giannulli attend The Women's Cancer Research Fund's An Unforgettable Evening Benefit Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 28, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Phillip Faraone/WireImage
 

The fallout from the elite school bribery scandal escalated on Wednesday, with a class action lawsuit filed by multiple students against big name universities alleging that they were not given a fair shot at admission due to wealthy students paying their way in and that the scandal has lessened the value of their own degrees.

 

On Tuesday, federal authorities revealed a massive admissions scandal implicating multiple elite universities, including Stanford, Yale, the University of Southern California, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of California, San Diego. Some high-profile figures were named in the bribery scheme, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. NBC News reported Tuesday that "Operation Varsity Blues" ensnared several school administrators, coaches, and standardized test administrators, who helped get students "admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams."

33 parents, including Loughlin and Huffman, allegedly paid college admissions counselor William Singer, who ran a college prep business, a total of $25 million to bribe "college officials, coaches and college entrance exam administrators, who then helped students secure admissions 'not on their merits but through fraud,'" NBC reported.

On Wednesday, a $5 million class action lawsuit expected to draw "thousands" of plaintiffs was filed.

"The initial plaintiffs, Stanford University students Erica Olson and Kalea Woods, filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Wednesday, a day after federal authorities said they've uncovered one of the largest college admissions scams ever seen in the U.S.," Fox News reports. "The lawsuit seeks $5 million on behalf of what the lawyers estimate will be thousands of plaintiffs who fit the criteria to seek class status."

 

Olson appears to have been removed from the lawsuit, but three more plaintiffs have since signed on. "The new students hailed from Rutgers, Tulane and an unnamed community college," Fox reports.

The schools named in the lawsuit include Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, USC, UC San Diego, UT Austin, and Wake Forest. The man at the center of the scandal, William Singer, was also named.

 

"The students who filed the complaint didn’t receive what they paid for — to participate in an application process free of fraud," Zimmerman Reed LLP, the firm representing the students, said in a statement reported by Fox. "According to the complaint, these schools represented that their admission process would be based on the applicants’ merits, considering their character and performance. Instead, the students allege that what they got was a process tainted by bribes and school officials who failed to assure an honest application process."

The statement continued: "It’s a straightforward claim and a simple remedy. The students want their money back. They request that anyone who paid an application fee to any of the eight named universities but was denied admission gets their application fee returned."

The lawsuit seeks damages from all the universities that "were negligent in failing to maintain adequate protocols and security measures in place to guarantee the sanctity of the college admissions process, and to ensure that their own employees were not engaged in these type of bribery schemes," the firm explained.

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