May 10, 2019

"The Varsity Blues scandal has exposed disturbing weaknesses in the admissions processes of highly selective institutions. While the investigation has brought charges against a small number of exceptionally wealthy individuals, the scandal threatens to erode public trust in all of higher education.

The gaps and deficits that consultants and their affluent clients were able to abuse were partially due to the lack of transparency that is inherent in the confidential nature of college admissions. Colleges obviously cannot share the details of their applicants’ personal and academic information with the public, nor should the federal or state governments attempt to micromanage their internal admissions procedures. One approach to reassuring the public is the one proposed by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Representative Donna Shalala of Florida. Their “College Equity Act” would provide grants to institutions to conduct audits of the impact of their policies, practices related to the admissions, financial aid, and employment opportunities on historically underserved students. 

As Congress moves ahead with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, this proposal merits serious consideration as a measured response to public alarm about the legitimacy and fairness of admissions practices of selective colleges and universities. It is important for policy makers and the public to understand that the aberrations exposed in the ongoing admissions scandal represent only a small number of selective colleges, and that AASCU institutions have long been committed to providing accessible, affordable and accountable higher education opportunities. Any legislative remedies to these abuses should therefore be tightly focused on where the offenses occurred."


The  American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise of Opportunities for All.