They wanted to join the Class of 2023 at prestigious universities. Instead, these prospective students will form the Plaintiff Class of 2019 in a federal lawsuit launched yesterday in California. The class-action suit will target the schools who admitted less-qualified candidates through bribery and corruption, a case which the FBI has practically handed attorneys on a silver platter.
The aim of the suit is surprisingly modest, however … at first blush, anyway:
The University of Southern California, Yale and several other elite colleges are being sued by multiple college students who claim they were denied a fair opportunity for admission and have had their degrees devalued due to a college cheating scheme detailed by federal officials Tuesday.
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. 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. …
“The students who filed the complaint didn’t receive what they paid for — to participate in an application process free of fraud,” a statement from Zimmerman Reed LLP said. “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.”
“It’s a straightforward claim and a simple remedy. The students want their money back,” the statement continued. “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.”
That’s an angle that flew under the radar. Colleges do charge students for submitting applications, and that fee isn’t small except in comparison to the bill for tuition if they get accepted. It’s assumed that the fees are just compensation for the administrative costs of the admissions process, but it’s still income. If school officials had corrupted the admission system, this arguably amounts to fraud, at least in a civil sense.
The individual compensation for this would be relatively small. As a class, though, the bill will soon add up, especially since there might be a nigh-unto-unlimited number of rejected students who would qualify in the class. After all, it’s impossible to identify which student lost out on a slot at USC because Lori Loughlin’s daughter bribed a coach, so everyone who had the grades and test scores to get admitted but didn’t could get compensated. Rick Singer might have a very specific recall of how many he pushed into these universities through the “side door,” but the courts won’t limit the plaintiff class to 761 also-rans.
This lawsuit will create serious headaches, especially if the plaintiffs’ attorneys decide to get tougher and demand punitive damages. These schools have massive endowments, which make for a very tasty target in suits such as these. That may be why the attorneys are keeping their demands reasonable for now, so as not to generate blowback from the courts or from public opinion.
That didn’t stop one parent from filing a $500 billion lawsuit, though:
A $500 billion civil lawsuit filed by a parent on Wednesday in San Francisco accused 45 defendants of defrauding and inflicting emotional distress on everyone whose “rights to a fair chance at entrance to college” were stolen through their alleged conspiracy. …
Jennifer Kay Toy, a former teacher in Oakland, California, said she believed her son Joshua was not admitted to some colleges, despite his 4.2 grade point average, because wealthy parents thought it was “ok to lie, cheat, steal and bribe their children’s way into a good college.”
Toy did not say if any colleges admitted her only child, or where Joshua might have won admission but for any chicanery.
Her complaint was filed in California Superior Court. Toy’s lawyer did not immediately respond on Thursday to a request for comment.
Er, good luck with that one. Are there some potential damages for not getting into a particular college? Maybe, but Toy will have to prove Joshua was on track to make $500 billion (or something at least in the ten-figure range) on his own because of an admission to USC, Yale, et al. It’s such a silly ask that it’s likely to get laughed out of court, and it suffers from the same insanity that drove Singer’s clients to corruption — the idea that only a handful of colleges offer any real value.
These universities had better start breaking out their checkbooks. If a jury starts hearing this case, it won’t end at $5 million, even if it never gets close to $500 billion.