New emails show size of donations in USC admissions scandal

It’s a common assumption that students from wealthy families have a better chance of getting into a prestigious university.

High-profile charges this year in a pay-to-play college admissions scandal only reinforced the idea, and documents produced  this week as a result offer insight into the amounts of money attorneys say was at stake.

Emails from University of Southern California officials filed in a federal court by a lawyer for parents charged in the invesrtigation include color-coded spreadsheets used to track “special interest applicants” flagged for their connections to university officials, trustees, donors and others, The Wall Street Journal reported.

They include references to past and potential gifts from families, such as “given 2 million already,” “1 mil pledge” or “father is surgeon.”

Martin G. Weinberg, a lawyer representing two parents accused in the admissions scandal, filed the papers amid a fight to force USC to produce records showing whether it favored rich or well-connected candidates, according to the report. He has argued that parents made donations as part of a standard admissions practice encouraged by the university.

Some of the emails show USC officials discussing a family’s prospective gifts and the possibility of pulling a student’s approval if the cash didn’t come through, according to the report.

In a statement, USC told FOX Business that its admissions office regularly receives information from various departments that can mark applicants as "special interest," but they don't have the authority to compel admissions decisions. Officials said the court filing was an attempt "to divert attention from the criminal fraud" the parents have been accused of.

In another court filing, the school said that its admissions office doesn’t track donations or know how much they are, according to the report.

Federal authorities charged dozens of people with offenses such as bribery, fraud and conspiracy, accusing them of bribing coaches and administrators to get their children into college. Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and business leaders such as former law firm co-chairman Gordon Caplan, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli and one-tme hedge fund chief Manuel Henriquez were among those implicated.

Actress Lori Loughlin arrives at federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Authorities identified William Singer of Key Worldwide Foundation and the Edge College & Career Network as the ringleader of the scheme. He has admitted to paying coaches with money parents donated through his “charity” in exchange for designating students as athletic recruits, regardless of ability.