College Admissions Scandal Sparks Hollywood Panic: "There Could Be More Parents Caught Up"
Suspicion, blame and fear ricochet among showbiz families as L.A. students, parents and counselors are feeling raw about the scope of the betrayal — and anxious about what may come next.
The frantic barrage of headlines has slowed, but the Hollywood impact of the country's biggest college admissions scandal continues to emerge. L.A. students, parents and counselors are feeling raw about the scope of the betrayal — and anxious about what may come next. Prosecutors have sent subpoenas to schools with names of students whose parents have not been charged, which indicates that more indictments are in the offing in the coming weeks. "There's a sense that there could be more parents caught up," says one private school parent, "that the list of people indicted is not the complete list." One high-powered Westside couple with ties to the music industry has told other parents they're concerned about what the next phase of charges might bring for them. Says a Westside mother of three, "Everyone's view is that this is going to keep going."
The hammer of justice that implicated William "Rick" Singer — along with 50 others, including actress Felicity Huffman, actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli and TPG's Bill McGlashan (who has left the company) — in fraudulent schemes to get their children into such schools as USC, Stanford and Yale comes with an ironic sting: The FBI proceeded with arrests just as elite colleges were beginning to send out letters notifying prospective students. "We're in the cycle right now," says Beverly Hills-based consultant Danny Ruderman, who bills himself as "America's premier college counselor" and boasts Chuck Norris, Don Cheadle and Albert Brooks as clients. "I'm getting messages as we speak about kids getting into colleges."
One mother of a Brentwood School senior cops to scouring Singer's Facebook page for friends she and the counselor have in common — and questioning what his relationship to those parents might entail (Loughlin often sang Singer's praises to other members at the Bel Air Bay Club, where she and Giannulli belong, according to several sources). "People are fucking pissed off at these cheaters," says the Brentwood mom. "This paints all of us in a really bad light. My kid scored over a 1500 on the SAT. No extra time. No payoff. Just hard work, and [the kid] is beyond stressed out about college because of these other kids who are cheating. It's kids like mine who lose." Other parents, upon learning that their school produced someone in the indictment, expressed similar outrage. "I'm disgusted by this," said one, "I mean, how dare they?"
Meantime, the children of indicted parents are grappling with another kind of fallout. The younger of Huffman's two daughters, a junior who is at the start of the application process, apparently has been consulting regularly with a school college counselor — but always with an attorney present. She also has recently been bullied, according to a source familiar with the events at her school. At USC, Loughlin's daughter, Instagram influencer Olivia Jade, hasn't been seen at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority she pledged in January. "I don't think she's still considered a member," says one person familiar with the sorority, which held its initiation the weekend of March 23. "I don't think she'll come back, I don't foresee that happening." And on March 18, USC tweeted that it had "placed holds on the accounts of students who may be associated with the alleged admissions scheme," preventing them from registering for classes or acquiring transcripts "while their cases are under review."
If there's a silver lining, it's that the scandal has initiated a conversation about ethical standards. "There are people looking at our little corner of the universe and saying, 'It's just like these Hollywood people to make a spectacle of themselves in this way,' " says Evelyn Alexander, a certified educational planner in L.A. "There are definitely people in my world saying, 'If your name is on a building and your kids get in, is this any different?' " Adds Ruderman, "People are re-evaluating what the importance of this college application process is. It's a reassessment. People are asking: Are we really looking at this in the right way?"
A version of this story first appeared in the March 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.