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Lawsuit filed by students and parents over college admissions scam

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San Francisco — A group of college students and their parents have filed a lawsuit against the University of Southern California, Yale University and other colleges where prosecutors say parents paid bribes to ensure their children's admission.

The lawsuit was first filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco and amended on Thursday afternoon to include more students and parents. The class action complaint alleges the students were denied a fair opportunity for admission due to the bribery and exam-fixing scandal. The suit was brought on behalf of "All individuals who, between 2012 and 2018, applied to UCLA, USC, USD, Stanford University, UT-Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, Georgetown University, or Yale University, paid an admission application fee to one or more of these universities, with respect to an admission application that was rejected by the university." 

"Each of the universities took the students' admission application fees while failing to take adequate steps to ensure that their admissions process was fair and free of fraud, bribery, cheating and dishonesty," the lawsuit reads. It claims the students "suffered an economic injury" due to the "unfair competition" — "namely, at the very minimum, the application fees paid to the universities for admission." 

"The students want their money back," their attorneys said in a statement. "They request that anyone who paid an application fee to any of the eight named universities but was denied admission gets their application fee returned." 

Originally, the suit was brought by two students, Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods, who said they were denied a fair opportunity to get into Yale and USC. Both are now enrolled at Stanford University. Olsen later dropped out of the suit but a handful of other students and their parents signed on to join Woods in the class action complaint. Nearly all of them allege they were rejected by one of the schools named in the admissions scandal indictment. 

The suit claims the alleged bribery scheme allowed "unqualified students" to be admitted to "highly selective universities" at the expense of others who didn't get in. It also claims the scandal has decreased the value of students' degrees from the elite colleges.

In addition to suing the colleges, their lawsuit names William "Rick" Singer as a defendant. Singer ran a high-end college admissions advisory business called The Key which allegedly orchestrated the scheme; he is now cooperating with prosecutors.

Prosecutors allege exam proctors, college coaches and others were involved in a widespread effort to rig the admissions process for children whose wealthy parents were willing to pay bribes. The indictments filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts include hundreds of pages of allegations implicating more than 50 people in two sets of schemes: standardized test cheating and college acceptance bribery. 

An earlier version of this story included the name of a student and her mother who were named in the lawsuit but have since said they are not part of the lawsuit. The lawyers bringing forth the lawsuit have not responded to our request for comment. 

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