Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd linked to college admissions cheating firm. Both say no evidence of wrongdoing by staff, students

Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College have been linked to a college preparation service that allegedly helped students get into colleges illegally. (Courtesy: Alberto G. via Flickr)

Although Claremont McKenna College is featured as a “success [story]” on the website of a company recently tied to a college admissions fraud scheme and a parent of a current CMC student praised the company in a testimonial on the site, CMC has no evidence of improper conduct by staff or students, according to a statement Wednesday.

Founders and employees of The Key, a college preparatory consulting firm, allegedly arranged to pay bribes to college admission officials, coaches and standardized test administrators, as well as allegedly facilitated cheating on standardized tests to help some clients gain admission to highly competitive colleges, according to a federal indictment released Tuesday.

According to the indictment and news reports about The Key, The Key did not participate in fraudulent or illegal activities on behalf of all of its clients.

Neither CMC nor any CMC staff members were named in the indictment, and no CMC parents have been indicted in connection with the investigation.

CMC and Harvey Mudd College are both featured on The Key’s website as “success stories” for The Key clients in 2009, and a testimonial from a current CMC parent praising the company appears on the site. The CMC parent is not among the parents indicted in connection with the scheme, who include actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

Harvey Mudd spokesperson Judy Augsburger said via email that the college adheres to ethical and professional practices in admissions and has not been contacted by investigators.

Students generally do not inform colleges when they are working with outside counselors, and Harvey Mudd is not aware of any former applicants “associated with the firm,” Augsburger said.

Pomona College also appears, alongside CMC and HMC, on a document from 2011 on The Key’s website. The document lists admission rates at a variety of schools in 2010 and 2011 and advertises The Key’s services. It is unclear whether the list contains schools to which The Key clients were admitted.

Pomona spokesperson Mark Kendall said via email that Pomona has not been contacted by investigators in connection with The Key and “the Pomona statistics on that link just appear to be general Pomona  admission statistics from those years.”

“CMC has no evidence or reason to believe that any of its staff has had any contact with [The Key] or otherwise engaged in this or any other type of misconduct,” CMC’s statement reads. “We are now aware of a CMC family that appears to have been a client of [The Key]. There is no indication that there was any irregularity or impropriety during the admissions process regarding this family or any other.”

CMC does not monitor applicants’ use of college consulting firms like The Key, according to the statement, and does not accept information or advocacy from such firms about their clients.

“The college is reviewing all available information in order to ensure the full integrity of our admission process,” the statement reads.

This article was updated March 14 at 1:33 p.m. to correct a typo.

This article was updated March 14 at 3:43 p.m. to add a comment from Judy Augsburger.

The headline of this article was updated March 14 at 7:20 p.m. to reflect Judy Augsburger’s comments.

Correction: An earlier version of this article featured Pomona College more prominently and stated that the document referenced appears to indicate that The Key clients were admitted to Pomona. It was updated to reflect that it is unclear whether The Key’s clients were admitted to the schools in question. TSL regrets this error. 
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