Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) issued the following statement after approximately 50 individuals were charged or indicted by federal prosecutors for engaging in widespread criminal fraud to buy students’ way into selective universities:

“I am heartbroken and disgusted by the lying and cheating of the ultra-rich parents and their allies who orchestrated an egregious college admissions scheme and robbed highly qualified students of the opportunity to attend elite universities. Millions of talented students – particularly those from minority, low-income, and rural communities – face nearly insurmountable odds before they even reach the point in their scholastic careers when they apply for college. Now, as a result of this latest $25 million fraudulent scheme to help unqualified and highly privileged students from wealthy families gain access to top universities, we have discovered that the plight of vulnerable students seeking admission into elite colleges is even worse than we previously understood.

“Minority, low-income, and rural community students often attend schools lacking in resources and have to take on part-time jobs, while maintaining good grades and balancing extra-curricular activities. Expensive tutoring programs and costly college preparatory courses are out of the question for students from families who are already struggling to make ends meet. It’s also been well-documented that elite universities have a disturbing track record of prioritizing students from wealthy and privileged families over students from minority, low-income, and rural communities. These universities have instituted policies such as legacy admissions, which overlook talented students from diverse backgrounds who are often the first in their families to attend college. These universities have placed a premium on standardized test scores, but fail to consider the way in which students from wealthy households have access to expensive tutors and prep courses that students from working class and low-income families seldom can afford. As evidenced by recent protests from students at many top institutions, there is still a question of whether the leadership of these universities is not only diverse, but whether they have created a culture that is truly inclusive—from the admissions office to the classroom. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that at the most competitive colleges in America, 70 percent of students come from the wealthiest quarter of families.[1] There are almost 40 elite schools—including Yale, Princeton, and Brown—which admit more students from the wealthiest 1 percent than those in the bottom 60 percent.[2]

“An often repeated, long held belief is that our public education system is a meritocracy, in which students are admitted into college based on their talent, hard work, potential, and achievements. This is a myth that is repeated in order to shield the education system from scrutiny. I applaud the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, federal prosecutors, and the nearly 200 federal agents nationwide who exposed the lies and toxic privilege leveraged by wealthy elites to buy their children admittance into selective colleges.[3]

“There should be no toll or tax on one’s path to success besides hard work. I stand with students across this country — particularly those from minority, low-income, and rural communities — who have been unfairly denied admission to elite universities as well as the students who have filed a class action lawsuit against the schools named by federal prosecutors. I will not stop until we have an education system that is accessible, affordable, and equitable for all – not some.”