Two Stanford students say the college admissions scandal has devalued their degrees.
Photo-Illustration: Konstantin Sergeyev/Intelligencer; Source Photos: Getty Images

Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods are angry.

The two Stanford students are the first aggrieved parties to file a lawsuit related to the sweeping college admissions scandal revealed by federal prosecutors this week. Filed in a San Francisco federal court, the suit names a handful of universities that the students say didn’t do enough to ensure that their admissions processes were fair and free of corruption.

Among the schools is Yale University, where Olsen applied in 2017. “At the time she applied, she was never informed that the process of admission was an unfair, rigged process, in which rich parents could buy their way into the university through bribery,” the suit says. “Had she known that the system at Yale University was warped and rigged by fraud, she would not have spent the money to apply to the school.”

Woods, meanwhile, had a similar experience with the University of Southern California, to which she spent $85 to apply. According to the suit, despite “stellar test scores (32 ACT and 2100 SAT)” and “athletic skills,” Woods “did not receive what she paid for — a fair admissions consideration process.”

The suit also names UCLA, the University of San Diego, Stanford, University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, and Georgetown, which have largely cast themselves as victims in this scandal. It seeks to allow any student who applied to those schools from between 2012 and 2018 to join the suit, which would force the schools to reimburse the students’ application fees:

Students do not have unlimited funds to pay for application fees. They must pick and choose which university or universities to apply to based upon their available funding, the cost of the application fee, and the likelihood that they will be accepted. Each of these students had a right to know that their application was going to be part of a review process corrupted by rampant fraud and back-door bribery.

Olsen and Woods also make the claim that the scandal has devalued the degrees from Stanford that they hope to earn. Each woman’s “degree is now not worth as much as it was before, because prospective employers may now question whether she was admitted to the university on her own merits, versus having rich parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

Students Sue: Rigged System Let ‘Rich Parents’ Buy Admission