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Eastern Illinois University sign (03/14/19)

Eastern Illinois University officials say they take the process of student admissions very serious, and are saddened by the national scandal that could put the processes at all colleges and universities in a negative light.

CHARLESTON -- News of a scheme involving wealthy parents bribing college coaches and others in the admissions process surprised and saddened Eastern Illinois University's admissions director Kelly Miller.

"It is just sad all around," Miller said.

Miller couldn't imagine parents were going to that length to get their children into these schools, especially because that might end up hurting the student who did not meet the standards required of incoming students.

"That is what admission standards are for," she said. They are designed to prevent students who may be unable to take on the rigor of the classwork from attending the school and, in most cases, failing.

Fifty people, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were charged Tuesday with taking part in the scheme to use their money and other insiders to get their children into some of the nation's most selective schools.

Miller said the revelation is especially sad for the students who made the grade but didn't have the deep pockets to get into those ivy-league schools.

"We are here to serve students," Miller said. "The other tragedy is the students who met the qualifications and were denied a seat."

Miller said this is not an example of the norm for admission into a university.

"It is a poor reflection on the profession, but it is not the professionals I see," she said, speaking colleagues across the state and Midwest.

Illinois State University athletic director Larry Lyons said the situation is “eye-opening,” and agreed with Miller that the allegations coming out of this scandal should not be viewed as common practice at the nation's colleges and universities.

"Obviously when you have something like this, it's going to seem like it's excessive or extreme, and it probably should be considered that way," Lyons said. "But I think on most campuses you have a healthy relationship with your admissions people.

"You're working to make sure you are crossing T's and dotting I's. That should be taking up your time ... making sure it is all done properly for your student-athletes."

Federal authorities are calling this the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department, with the parents accused of paying an estimated $25 million in bribes.

"I think people have tried to influence decisions whether it's politics or shoot, we see it in basketball recruiting, and now it's in admissions. People have tried to influence decisions for as long as there have been decisions to influence. It's very, very unfortunate. But you go back to there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. You hope that most people are on the right side of that."

At Eastern, especially, Miller stressed test scores and transcripts are verified before students are admitted. Test scores and transcripts must come from official sources.

Among the allegations being made is that test scores were being fabricated at some of the official sources.

Prosecutors said that parents paid consultants big money from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to falsely make their children look like star athletes to boost their chances of getting accepted.

The consultant also hired ringers to take college entrance exams for students, and paid off insiders at testing centers to correct students' answers.

Miller said the EIU processing team is experienced at catching discrepancies or things that just seem off. While not a norm for the staff, she said they sometimes find people applying with false transcripts, prompting them to notify the school that was forged on the fake transcripts.

Miller hopes the scandal doesn't paint admissions and athletics in a dubious light, but she could see a relative or parent raising doubt about why their kid didn't get accepted into a particular school.

"It will be interesting to see what comes out from these institutions," Miller said, referring to those universities being linked to the case.

Lyons said a byproduct could be the schools involved and others being "introspective as to what their policies and procedures are and if they need more policies and procedures."

"It comes back to people handling their responsibilities in a forthright and trusting manner and having the correct relationships on the campus," he said.

Randy Kindred contributed to this report.

Contact Jarad Jarmon at (217) 238-6839. Follow him on Twitter: @JJarmonReporter

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Reporter

Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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