Admitted to the Industry

Occupational Licensing of Private College Counselors Following the 2019 College Admissions Scandal

In March 2019, federal agents arrested William “Rick” Singer, a private college counselor, for conspiring with parents, athletic coaches, and other individuals to secure his clients’ admittance to prestigious universities. The investigation, “Operation Varsity Blues,” exposed the illegal and unethical practices of an individual involved in the largely unregulated independent educational consultant industry.

Following this highly publicized scandal, federal and state legislators proposed statutes to curb the inequities in college admissions exposed by Operation Varsity Blues. For example, California legislators considered the “College Consultants Act,” which would establish a form of occupational licensing for members of the college consulting industry to ensure that the state can more easily track the activities of private college counselors.

This Note argues that, while the College Consultants Act is a positive step, this legislation does not go far enough to ensure fairness in the college admissions process or to protect the public from the unethical actions of purported private college counselors. Rather, California legislators and other state lawmakers should consider implementing a certification system, which would restrict a private college counselor’s ability to use an accredited title based on the state’s assessment of the professional’s skill, educational background, and ethics. Through a certification system, states could promote fairness in college admissions by deterring and tracking future fraud, resolving information asymmetry between consumers and private college counselors, and encouraging competent, ethical counseling practices.

a. J.D., 2021, University of Illinois College of Law; B.A.-Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thank you to the editors, members, and staff of the University of Illinois Law Review for your guidance throughout the writing process. To my parents and brother, thank you for your willingness to listen to me think aloud and unwavering support. Thank you, as well, to my professors at the University of Illinois College of Law and University of Wisconsin-Madison for encouraging me to explore, to question, and to think and write critically.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.