College Admission Scandal In Part Relied on Students Claiming Learning Disabilities

The College Board, who administers the SATs, recently came out and said it was unaware of any other schemes to cheat on its test other than the well known and now widely documented scheme run by William "Rick" Singer. The board said it was cooperating with authorities, according to a new Wall Street Journal article.

Zachary Goldberg, spokesman for the College Board, said: “We already do a lot around test security. We’re doing more today than ever to ensure the test scores we report to colleges are accurate and valid.”

The college admission scam included a complex plan to cheat on the SATs to gain admission to elite colleges. 50 people have already been charged and the investigation is ongoing.

Cheating plots on the SATs have continued to grow more complex. For instance, in 2011, 15 teenagers in Long Island were accused of paying up to $3600 to have others take the exam for them. In 2015, 15 Chinese nationals were charged with creating fake passports to enable imposters to take the tests for $6000. In 2016, some copies of the test were stolen in Asia.

In the most recent scheme, Singer would try to get students extended time to take the test by having them fake learning disabilities to get doctors notes. He also had parents make up excuses as to why they would be near specific test centers at specific times, so Singer could use proctors he had bribed. Then, a test taker was flown to the site to either take the test or to change the answers to improve the student's score.

ACT Inc., the company in charge of the ACT test said the allegations are the actions of "a few bad individuals". The organization continued, in a statement: “ACT contracts with thousands of people to locally administer the ACT around the country. These individuals certify to follow ACT’s policies and procedures to administer the ACT test. In these cases, the two charged individuals allegedly did not follow ACT’s rules.”

The number of students receiving accommodations has more than doubled from 2009 to 2016. Students in affluent school districts are more likely to get extended time than students in poor districts, the Wall Street Journal reported. When colleges receive the students' scores, they don’t know that the student had additional time to take the test.

Miriam Freedman, a lawyer who has represented public schools in special-education and disability law said: “It’s a loophole that some people know how to use and a lot of people don’t. The system is rigged.”

As many as one and four students at US elite colleges are now classified as disabled, mostly due to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

We recently profiled one Harvard test-taking "whiz" that was responsible for helping students at the center of the scandal get high scores. Late last week we reported on the tipster who gave the SEC the lead on the admissions scandal. He was in the midst of being investigated for a pump and dump scam at the time. 

We also reported that the universities involved were now facing class action lawsuits from their students. Additionally, we reported on major tax implications that could be waiting for the parents involved - including potential civil tax fraud penalties and interest charges on any bribe amounts they wrote off. 

After the scandal was reported, we unveiled that William Rick Singer was the man who brokered and facilitated many of the bribes. 

Our original take on the entire scandal can be read here