What The College Admissions Bribery Scandal Means For Law Schools

What The College Admissions Bribery Scandal Means For Law Schools

Last week, dozens of wealthy parents of college applicants were charged for allegedly paying bribes to get their children accepted into top colleges.

In an exclusive interview with Law.com, Anna Ivey, of Anna Ivey Consulting and former admissions dean at the University of Chicago Law School, discussed whether or not illegal admissions exist in the law school world.

“I haven’t heard of felony-level stuff where parents are bribing people at a law school,” Ivey tells Law.com. “It could be happening, but I’m not aware of it. I think the way the fraud operated in this particular case wouldn’t really work at the law school level because what they did is exploit this whole phenomenon of college sports and the power that coaches have at these schools. There’s really no equivalent on the law school side.”

The LSAT

A number of the parents accused of cheating and bribing officials allegedly exploited college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, by claiming disabilities for their children to get extra time.

Ivey says this accommodations loophole has become common over time across standardized tests, including the LSAT.

“It’s possible that in the past the LSAT may have been harder to get accommodations on, but I suspect that has flattened over time because of legislation and the lawsuits [pertaining the granting of disability accommodations on the LSAT],” Ivey tells Law.com. “But it is possible to buy these diagnoses. It happens all the time. It’s enraging and depressing because there are people out there who legitimately need those accommodations, but there is plenty of abuse going on, no question.”

Buying Law School Acceptance

Making donations to a university to give an applicant special treatment in admissions is not uncommon. However, the cost to truly get special treatment for an applicant has increased over the years. In order to get an applicant special consideration in the admissions process, a donation would have to be at least $10 million, according to a New York Times article.

Even then, experts say a donation of $10 million doesn’t mean guaranteed acceptance.

In the case of the high-profile bribing scandal, wealthy parents sought a guarantee.

Ivey says the act of writing a big check to a university in hopes of acceptance is common at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

“In the graduate level, it’s going to happen more at professional schools,” Ivey tells Law.com.  “Is there bribery happening to get a master’s degree in Welsh? Maybe, but I don’t think there is a lot of money in play there. So I think we’re likely talking about professional schools. But yeah, it happens all the time. People offer to make big donations. They do make big donations. That’s not restricted to the undergraduate world.”

Changing The Admissions Process

If anything, the most recent scandal highlights an issue in the admissions process: wealthy applicants can easily gain an edge over those who simply play by the rules.

While many of the loopholes in the most recent scandal were specific to undergraduate admissions, Ivey says there are changes that could be made at the law school admissions level.

“The fixes that might pertain to the law school side is that there is clearly abuse happening of the accommodations process for the LSAT, as there is with the SAT and the ACT,” Ivey tells Law.com. “You don’t want to make it so hard and burdensome that you’re keeping out people who legitimately need accommodations. There are trade-offs to tightening up that process. But anyone who sees the underbelly of higher education knows full well that that process gets abused all the time. It needs to get cleaned up.”

Sources: Law.com, LA Times, NY Times