1 in 4 American Parents Have Cheated to Get Their Child Into College

1 in 4 American Parents Have Cheated to Get Their Child Into College

Many of these parents came from high-income and low-income households in particular
College students in class

Although stories like the one detailed in Netflix's Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal paint cheating in the college admissions process as an incident that largely takes place among families with ample resources, new findings show that this isn't entirely the case.

A recent report from higher education resource Intelligent.com discovered that cheating is actually much more widespread, with the bulk of cases coming from two distinct groups.

Cheating more prevalent in high-income and low-income households

Although a previous survey from Bright Horizons found that about a quarter of parents are interested in having employer-sponsored academic tutoring and college tutoring for their children, that may not be enough for today's parents.

According to the latest survey results from Intelligent.com, 1 in 4 parents of college students confessed that they cheated to get their child into college.

Although 48% of respondents did so because of their child's low high school GPA, another 40% hoped to "ensure a prosperous future for their child."

Other top responses from parents included:

  • Their child's extracurricular activities were lacking (35%)
  • They didn't want to leave acceptance up to chance (32%)
  • Their family's social status would've been damaged if their child didn't attend a particular institution (30%)

Cheating was also more likely to take place within families in two distinct income levels:

  • High-income households making $125,000 or more annually (33%)
  • Low-income households making less than $49,999 annually (29%)

"For lower-income parents, higher education may be the path towards a financially secure future for their children. It may seem worth it to bend the rules a bit to help their kids get into college," says Intelligent.com spokesperson Kristen Scatton.

"On the other hand, high-income families may be more concerned with maintaining their social and financial status, often by ensuring their child attends a prominent institution. As we saw with the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, individuals with greater means may engage in unethical behavior from a sense of entitlement, or a belief that their money and status will protect them from consequences."

In comparison, Intelligent.com found only 19% of cheating parents were from middle-income households with an annual income between $50,000 and $124,999.

Wealthy parents used financial resources to increase admission chances for their child

The Intelligent.com survey also looked at the various underhanded methods parents used to secure their children's college admissions, and found that just over half of them (52%) made "sizable" donations to a higher education institution to increase their child's chances for acceptance.

It also discovered that this practice was even more commonplace among wealthier families, with 73% of them admitting to doing so.

Meanwhile, other parents resorted to measures such as:

  • Arranging for another individual to take their child's standardized tests (41%)
  • Listing false achievements (27%)
  • Listing false volunteer work (24%)
  • Bribing admissions officials (22%)
  • Embellishing their child's life experience in their essay (22%)

Methodology: For this report, Intelligent.com conducted two surveys:

  • One from April 25-26, 2021 on 1,250 American parents with a child who attended or is attending a four-year college or university
  • Another on April 25, 2021 on 1,250 American adults (ages 18 and up) who currently attend or attended a four-year college or university