Class action involving 'Varsity Blues' not likely to get certified, legal expert says

By Carrie Bradon | Mar 26, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO – The recent discovery of bribing scandals involving wealthy parents and prestigious educational institutions has had a new development as students have filed a lawsuit against the institutions over allegations that the admissions process was unfair.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on March 13 by Stanford University student Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods, who applied to the same universities that have been involved in bribery and claim that they are owed their admissions fees back since they never had a shot at getting in. Defendants in the proposed class action suit include the University of Texas at Austin, Georgetown University, The University of Southern California and Stanford University.

Kim Stone of Stone Advocacy commented on this lawsuit and her opinion of the students' argument. 

"I cannot wait for this lawsuit to get smacked out of court. It’s ridiculous," Stone told The Northern California Record. "The whole scandal is shocking and horrible, and I’m personally glad that the FBI is going after the wrongdoers and is going to prosecute them criminally to the full extent of the law — which is fully appropriate — but the idea that tens of thousands of students who were rejected from those schools suffered a harm that deserves to be compensated is ridiculous."

Stone said that there were originally two named plaintiffs in the lawsuit but that one has dropped out, the remaining named plaintiff was rejected from a university and is seeking reimbursement from that university. However, the plaintiff was accepted into another university which is just as prestigious if not more so than the one she was rejected from.

"The funny thing is, though, that she got into Stanford, which isn’t exactly a subpar institution. It’s going to be hard for her to have any credible damages," Stone said. "The complaint also alleges that the degree from Stanford is somehow going to be worth less than it would have been prior to the scandal because everybody is going to think that she came from a rich family that bribed somebody to get her in, which is laughable."

While Stone believes that wealthy families often have unfair advantages over poorer families, she does not believe that a class action lawsuit is the appropriate way to seek justice.

"Remedying that injustice through a class action lawsuit does not make sense. When a student applies to college and pays the application fee to apply, that is not a down payment or a purchase of a ticket, that is more analogous to a lotto ticket: you are paying for the chance of getting in, no matter what your SAT scores, or grades or extracurricular activities are, there is no guarantee of getting in," Stone said.

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