URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — “If you got into the University of Illinois you did so on your own merits.”
The biggest college admissions scandal ever in the U.S. is sparking conversation among school leaders.
One of the women indicted has Central Illinois ties. Elisabeth Kimmel is on the First Busey Corporation’s board of directors. She also owns Midwest television, the company that used to own WCIA3.
Kimmel was expected to appear in federal court Wednesday afternoon. Instead she’ll go before a judge in Boston at some point in the future. She was arrested at her California home yesterday.
She’s accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get her kids into college.
Nearly a dozen pages in an extensive criminal complaint with the Justice Department detail how Elisabeth Kimmel payed to get her daughter into Georgetown, and her son into USC.
Her daughter doesn’t have any record with the Southern California Junior Tennis program. Her son doesn’t have any record participating in track and field. That didn’t stop them from getting into college as athletes.
The documents show the fake picture that was sent to USC making it look as though Kimmels’ son was an elite high school pole vaulter.
Phone calls between the man who orchestrated the scheme, and kimmel and her husband describe how almost half a million dollars in bribes were handed out to coaches at both universities combined.
The indictment shows the checks were written from the Meyer Charitable Foundation.
Kimmels daughter graduated from Georgetown in 2017. Her son started attending USC last fall.
University of Illinois Undergraduate Admissions Director Andy Borst says the entire situation is sending ripples across colleges in America.
“I was shocked at the degree of which some of the violations are charged with are out of the realm of anything we’ve seen before”
Borst says there are safeguards in place at the U of I to make sure that doesn’t happen.
A firewall was put in place in 2009 after an Illinois admissions scandal involving state politicians. It stops anyone from intervening in the admissions process. Counselors have to log any and all inquiries or information.
They also use several measures to decide on whether to admit a prospective student.
“In fact there have been instances where we’re denying students with perfect test scores because we’re looking at the whole application file, will they be a good fit at the university, did they convey that in their application materials, not just what’s your test score what’s your gpa.”
He says they’ve been in touch with the athletics department in the past 24 hours as well, to talk about the safeguards they have in place in regards to that. Any recruited athlete or student athlete has to be verified by both a head coach and assistant coach. There’s also a 11 person committee to go over any student who being considered for admission as a student athlete.They also have to be verifiably be on an active roster.
The criminal complaint says her son was in the dark on this all.
USC says they are reviewing current students who are connected on a case by case basis and will make a decision after that. USC has fired its athletic director and water polo coach. Both are charged in the scheme.
Georgetown says it was deeply disappointed to learn their former tennis coach was charged. He hasn’t coached the team since 2017 after an internal investigation found he had violated university rules on admissions.
Prosecutors say the majority of parents paid a man between $250,000 and 400,000 for the service. Authorities say the colleges and most of the students who benefited were not involved – but plenty of others were.
In return for bribes, coaches agreed to pretend certain applicants were recruited athletes. They weren’t and many had never even played the sport. The FBI says the coaches knew the students’ athletic credentials had been fabricated.