College admissions scandal brings federal class action lawsuit

Erica Olsen was seemingly a highly qualified candidate when she applied for admission to Yale University a couple years. Ditto that for Kalea Woods and her application materials submitted to the University of Southern California.

Neither Olsen nor Woods got into their first-choice schools, although they were subsequently admitted to prestigious Stanford University, where they are still students.

They are now also litigants in a high-profile lawsuit they brought as plaintiffs in a federal court last week. Their litigation spotlights the ongoing scandal regarding admissions fraud that has centered on mass cheating engineered to get unqualified prospective students into some of the nation’s most eminent universities. A probe into the matter has resulted in multiple arrests and criminal charges that could potentially be filed against scores of people.

Olsen and Woods have paid close attention to the details that have emerged, with their federal filing being an obviously quick response. The two women say that the scandal has personally harmed them because would-be employers might wonder about their honesty and qualifications following their graduation from Stanford. Their lawsuit states that hiring managers might question whether their admissions owed to their own merits “versus having parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

Both litigants say that they would never have applied to the schools that rejected them had they known that other less qualified individuals would be admitted because of bribery payments made on their behalf and additional scamming behaviors. Their lawsuit is a class action effort in which they serve as lead plaintiffs representing additional parties who were allegedly similarly harmed.

A class action lawsuit is a specialized legal filing applicable only in select instances. We will take a closer look at class actions in an upcoming blog post.