Service of When Should an Organization Give Back Tainted Money?

October 7th, 2019

Categories: Donations, Money, Scams, School, University

By now most have heard about the wealthy parents who in all spent $25 million to ensure their offspring were accepted to US colleges. Some faked athletic expertise and others had someone fiddle with their kids’ SAT and ACT scores. William “Rick” Singer was the mastermind/broker who hid behind his Key Worldwide Foundation.

Coaches who played ball gave some of the money to their athletic departments according to Louise Radnofsky in her Wall Street Journal article, “Many Colleges That Got Money Tainted by Admissions Scandal Still Have It –Unlike political campaigns which routinely return controversial donations, colleges are holding funds.”

According to Radnofsky there are no rules that cover colleges under these circumstances. A former education policy aide to the Democratic party said while he’d wished that low-income students had been given the money, he thought that the decision of what to do was up to prosecutors and courts–not the schools. Most–not all–of Radnofsky’s examples show that schools made that decision.

“Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University were directly identified by federal prosecutors as recipients of payments made by Mr. Singer or his clients, sometimes through his charity in connection with specific admissions,” she wrote.

Radnofsky added that Stanford is in touch with the California attorney general to pass on the approximately $770,000 that Singer directed to the sailing program. The sailing coach pleaded guilty to accepting the money.

“USC said that ‘because of the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation, we are unable to discuss details related to it.'” The university may have received as much as $1.3 million, and its water-polo program was enriched with $250,000 more.

University of Texas received money in 2015 which it used to renovate its tennis facilities.

Wake Forest redirected $50,000 to its Magnolia Scholars program for first-generation college students. Its volleyball program was the original recipient of most.

Chapman University [$400,000] is waiting on the California attorney general to approve its donation to organizations “focused on helping at-risk youth and low-income students gain access to higher education.”

DePaul University, where Singer’s son graduated, is not returning its $150,000.

Two colleges– Georgetown and the University of Miami–identified as involved from public tax records said they found no link to Singer for any donations. NYU’s athletics law firm is still reviewing the circumstances around $338,379 donations. “Representatives for Baruch College, listed as a recipient of $50,000 in 2015, didn’t respond to emails and telephone inquiries about the money.”

Should colleges donate their ill gotten gains to student-focused charities? Should they keep the money?

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8 Responses to “Service of When Should an Organization Give Back Tainted Money?”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    The colleges should expell all those students who obtained acceptance on the basis of fraud. The tuition money should not be refunded. It would seem appropriate that where possible the money illegally donated should be considered evidence in any court proceedings. Upon resolution of these cases rules that apply to ill gotten gains should be remain with the court. Then perhaps there should be adjudication like that used for money and goods seized in other criminal trials. The disposition of the monies must be subject to some kind of legal review since original purpose remains tainted.

    Since I am not a legal scholar I do not know precisely how to settle this. It also differs from the Epstein donations which were not made for specific quid pro quo entry slots. It is an ugly dilemma. Previously “gentleman” or family ties may have been brought to bear on admissions, but in all these recent cases the difference is apparently specific falsified credentials submitted with cash donations. It is a new and sordid variation on favors for admission which has created new legal problems, seemingly difficult to resolve.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I forgot about the tuition. I agree: Each university/college should keep the money but not the students in question.

    There are institutions around the world, such as museums, returning Sackler money. The family owns Purdue Pharmaceuticals which is held by many as responsible for the opiod epidemic. It takes guts to “do the right thing.”

  3. TC Said:

    Considering choices–perhaps a third one: Why not return money to sources to wipe the slate clean.

  4. BC Said:

    I think they should put the money in their scholarship funds.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I like the suggestion that the universities not keep the money but people who can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars–or even “just” $15,000–to cheat their kids’ way into college won’t miss the money and I think it should go to a better cause than back to the perpetrators’ wallets.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Scholarship funds are a good place to put this money.

    And the first student turned away because his/her spot was taken by the kid whose parent’s cheated their child’s way in should not only have the chance to transfer but this person’s tuition should be paid for by said parents.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    I agree with BC. Not only should the money be added to scholarships, but all punitive fines as well. No one should profit other than deserving students who might have been left out had these crimes not been discovered.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Another vote to give the money to scholarships: I agree with you and BC!

    I’d also be curious to know what if any universities or colleges didn’t play ball when/if the scheme’s mastermind William “Rick” Singer approached them. They and their sports coaches should be commended.

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