We’re living in a time when obtaining a college degree has never been more valuable, and has also never been more expensive. The act of being admitted to the nation’s top universities has turned into a bloodbath between high school students from all across the nation. Millions of students nationwide are asking themselves the same question, “How can I make myself standout from my peers?” Being a recent high school graduate myself, I am fully aware of the competitive nature of my generation. Just a few months ago I was one of those students vying for a spot at one of the many elite institutions. However, in light of recent news headlines, it seems that high school seniors are not the only individuals competing for a spot at accredited universities; parents have inserted themselves in the competition by attempting to maximize their children’s chances of getting accepted. Currently, the nation awaits to hear the fate of actress Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli as they face charges for falsifying records in order to get their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, into the University of Southern California. In a nation becoming increasingly competitive over many different things, can one understand Loughlin’s rationale behind her actions, despite them being deemed morally and legally unjustifiable?

The scandal first unfolded in March 2019, when Loughlin and her husband Giannulli were busted by the Justice Department for allegedly paying $500,000 to get Oliva Jade and Isabella Rose onto the USC crew team, ensuring their admittance to the school. Typically, if an athlete for a specific sports team is successfully recruited by a school, admittance is guaranteed. However, both Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose were not participants on any crew team prior to entering college, and they had no intention of joining it once admitted. During this time, the Justice Department discovered 50 other individuals were involved in a nationwide college admissions scandal. One of the most notable cases was actress Felicity Huffman’s, who allegedly paid $15,000 to enhance her daughter’s SAT scores. To these individuals, money is clearly no object. However, what is even more shocking is that many of the accused operated as if they were never going to get caught. After all, bribing college officials in exchange for college admittance has been happening for years and is rarely, if ever publicly reported. 

Actions have consequences. Although the Federal Justice system is flawed, this college admissions scandal reveals that even the most famous public figures can’t escape the repercussions of committing such a serious crime. From the day the news broke, Loughlin and Giannualli’s lives have been in a tailspin. The scandal has ravaged their careers; Loughlin was not only dropped from the final season of Netflix’s Fuller House, she was also sued by former Oakland-area teacher Jennifer Kay Toy for $500 million. Toy believes the actions of Loughlin and Huffman has contributed to her son Joshua’s rejection from USC. As for Giannulli, Target has publicly cut all ties with the fashion designer. 

Olive Jade has also been suffering the consequences of her parents’ actions firsthand. In May, it was revealed that she was aware of her parents’ actions but thought their actions were justifiable considering the rejections she received from the other California schools she applied to. Olivia’s admittance makes me question whether her parents should have been more worried about their daughter’s moral compass over which college she attends in the fall. Not only was she dropped from a partnership with Sephora, but her highlighter palette was also pulled from store shelves. 

Although the celebrities have been publicly punished for their actions, their legal consequences remain questionable. On Sept. 13, actress Felicity Huffman’s fate was determined when the judge sentenced her to 14 days in prison, a $30,000 fine and one year of supervised release with 250 hours of community service. Her actions hurt the admissions of another student who would have had a better chance of being admitted if Huffman had not tampered with her daughter’s application. For this, Huffman’s punishment will only last for a year, simply because she pleaded guilty. However, does her admittance of guilt reveal a woman truly ashamed of her behavior?

The actions of these individuals infuriate me. However, at the same time, I am not a parent. I don’t know what it is like to worry about someone else’s future besides my own. In times of desperation, our rationale goes out the window. Many individuals, including myself, can talk about how much the actions of these women upset us, but if we were in their positions of power, wealth and influence, would the same idea cross our minds? Would those ideas later turn into law-breaking actions? 

If the college admittance process drives experienced, wealthy adults to commit unspeakable crimes, imagine what it does to those who have neither status nor wealth. Parents who don’t have the means to pay for SAT tutors nevertheless bribe their child’s way right into the front door of the university. Lower income students who exhaust every free resource and work their absolute hardest to gain admittance come to find out that financial privilege makes all the difference in applying to college. 

Currently, Loughlin and her husband continue to deny accusations. Since they continue to plead not guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, each are facing up to 20 years for each charge for a maximum sentence of 40 years behind bars. Loughlin and her husband are either really confident in their defense team, or they believe they have done nothing wrong. Whatever their rationale, the outlook is not positive.