On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, the U.S. Justice Department announced an ongoing investigation of a college admissions scheme that targeted several universities across the country, including USC. This page provides information from USC about these issues and will be updated as new information becomes available.
What is USC doing in response to the alleged admissions scheme?
We immediately terminated two employees associated with the allegations. We also placed on leave a faculty member who was named in the federal indictment as a parent. This leave is a required procedural step in the process for evaluating the termination of tenured faculty. More employment actions may be possible as new facts come to light.
The university is conducting a full review of the matter and continues to cooperate with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation. We are in the process of identifying donations that may have been received in connection with the alleged scheme and determining how to redirect those funds.
USC determined which applicants in the current admissions cycle are connected to the alleged scheme and they will be denied admission. A case-by-case review of current students who may be connected to the alleged scheme is also underway. We will make informed decisions about those cases as the reviews are completed. USC has not yet made decisions regarding former students who may have been involved in the alleged admissions scheme; our current focus is on students who were enrolled in spring 2019.
We will take all necessary steps to safeguard the integrity of our admissions process and to ensure we conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with our values.
What is USC doing regarding students applying for fall 2019, those already enrolled and those who have graduated?
USC determined which applicants in the current admissions cycle are connected to the alleged scheme and they will be denied admission. A case-by-case review of current students who may be connected to the alleged scheme is also underway. We will make informed decisions about those cases as the reviews are completed.
How many current students are having their admissions reviewed?
The university is conducting (or has finished conducting) reviews of the admissions application of 33 currently enrolled students.
- An internal investigation is continuing, including a thorough review of the student-athlete admissions process; we are continuing to update our procedures related to admissions review of student-athletes.
- We completed the investigative process in mid-June for a group of students under review and notified those students of the determination on their case. These follow earlier determinations involving applicants in the most recent admissions cycle, when applicants were denied admission as facts and evidence warranted. Investigations are ongoing for other students related to possible admissions violations.
- In March, we placed holds on the accounts of students who may be associated with the admissions issue. Students who agreed to participate in the review of their case have been allowed to enroll in classes for the fall semester. But holds remain preventing them from obtaining a degree or acquiring transcripts while their cases are under review.
- We are unable to provide information about individual students because of student privacy laws.
- We are continuing to work through a very thorough, deliberative process for each student case under review. Each of the students is entitled to a fair and impartial process as detailed in our policies, and we are taking the time needed to make sure that those processes are followed carefully.
- The university remains committed to making the appropriate decisions based on the facts of each case. Those may outcomes range from no finding of violation to revoking admission or expulsion.
What is the investigative process for each of the students whose status is being reviewed?
Students received written notification from the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards (SJACS) of the complaint that their admissions status was under review and were given five business days to respond to schedule an interview with an SJACS review officer.
Students who schedule interviews are allowed to have an advisor present with them during their interview. At the interview, the students can provide information or evidence that they wish to have considered as part of the review.
Students who choose not to be interviewed will have their matters proceed to the next SJACS’ step, in which investigators complete their review based on the available evidence.
When an investigation is completed, a finding is made about what occurred regarding that student’s admission.
The finding is provided to the Division of Student Affairs, which determines what sanction, if any, is appropriate. Actions include no status change, allowing a student to voluntarily withdraw, expulsion, or revocation.
By USC policy, students may appeal a decision resulting from the review within 10 business days of receipt of the decision.
Why isn’t USC identifying potential students, current students and graduates involved in the alleged scheme?
USC, like other universities around the country, follows a federal law regarding the privacy of student records called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, often referred to as FERPA. According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student.
Do applicants need to sign some sort of attestation when they apply saying what is in their application is true?
We use the Common Application’s attestation for all applicants. The common application includes an affirmation statement that all information is factually true and honestly presented.
The alleged admissions scheme involved fraudulent applications in which students’ academic and athletic ability were intentionally misrepresented to the university for the sole purpose of bypassing USC’s rigorous admissions process.
How much money was involved and what is USC going to do with it?
We are in the process of identifying donations that may have been received in connection with the alleged scheme and determining how to redirect those funds.
Published: August 13, 2019
Updated: March 18, 2019 — Added details about holds placed on student accounts
Updated: March 27, 2019 — Clarified that account holds prevent students from withdrawing
Updated: April 3, 2019 — Added details about the review of student-athlete admissions process and procedures
Updated: April 8, 2019 — Added factors for consideration in reviewing student status
Updated: April 24, 2019 — Added description of the investigative process
Updated: June 17, 2019 — Updated current state of investigative process involving student reviews
Updated: June 19, 2019 — Updated current state of investigative process involving former students
Updated: July 16, 2019 — Added details about student reviews
Updated: August 12, 2019 — Updated on status of student reviews