Amid college admissions scam scandal, critics claim widespread fraud gets students extra time on tests

In the wake of an alleged college admissions scam ring that included some celebrity suspects, the process has seen increased scrutiny over the apparent prevalence of fraud.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted, a student at Harvard-Westlake, a Los Angeles college preparatory school, wrote a school newspaper article calling attention to reports that parents had been conspiring with doctors to produce notes allowing their kids extra time while completing tests.

The student, Jessa Glassman, alleged that a loophole meant to aid those with legitimate disabilities had been widely corrupted by overly ambitious parents.

“I have seen more than a few of my classmates flock to specialists with the hopes of being diagnosed with a disorder that would qualify them for extra time on their entrance exams,” the high school junior wrote.

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She went on to claim that the allowance “has been exploited by some wealthy families who use their easy access to expensive medical professionals to give their children an upper hand in the college admissions process.”

The extra-time policy was an offshoot of the Americans with Disabilities Act and went into effect nearly 30 years ago. But research shows its application among American students has steadily increased in recent years.

A report published last year by the Wall Street Journal found that roughly 1 in 4 students attending the nation’s most elite universities have received such a diagnosis, commonly identified as “mental-health issues” including “depression or anxiety.”

While action dating back to 2000 that sought to limit the possibility that the system could be rigged — specifically by white, wealthy students — reportedly restrained such abuses, it also invited a lawsuit. Three years later, the loophole was not only reopened, but reportedly no longer included a record of discrepancies in exemption applications between classes of students.

The lengthy indictment that came from “Operation Varsity Blues” reportedly dealt with this issue, finding that alleged ringleader William “Rick” Singer told one client to send his daughter to a psychologist being paid by Singer and tell her to “be stupid, not to be as smart as she is” during the evaluation. As CrimeOnline previously reported, actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among the dozens facing criminal charges related to the alleged scam.

One parent, Christina Simon, said doctors willing to accept such bribes are plentiful and often charge thousands to provide the paperwork needed for an exemption.

Some are skeptical that the rise in exemptions is entirely due to fraudulent claims.

Betsy Braun, an industry consultant, said that legitimate medical claims related to learning disabilities including “ADHD or a focus disorder” have “become normalized” in recent years.

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