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The Department Of Education Is Now Investigating Schools Tied To The College Admissions Scandal

Investigators are now checking into whether the universities broke any laws in how they have handled federal student aid.

Last updated on March 26, 2019, at 5:33 p.m. ET

Posted on March 26, 2019, at 11:56 a.m. ET

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The Department of Education is investigating universities tied to the massive student admissions scandal that unveiled a system of bribing school officials and falsifying test scores to gain acceptance.

Officials within the department's enforcement division sent a notice to the president of University of Texas and seven other schools Monday night, announcing a preliminary investigation into their process for vetting students, according to a spokesperson and emails obtained by BuzzFeed News.

In the five-page letter, investigators said they were going to examine whether there were any violations of regulations "governing the Federal student financial aid programs administered by the Department under Title IV...or any other applicable laws."

The investigation would also include looking for any employee, a third-party servicer, or other person involved with the university who may have engaged in fraud, misrepresentation, or other illegal conduct while involved in student financial aid programs.

“The allegations made and evidence cited by the Department of Justice raise questions about whether your institution is fully meeting its obligations,” the Education Department official wrote.

So far, eight schools are being probed. The others include Wake Forest University, the University of San Diego, Stanford, Georgetown, University of Southern California, and the University of California, Los Angeles, according to Politico, which first reported the investigation.

On Tuesday Yale issued a statement saying federal education officials are initiating a preliminary investigation into whether the school and seven other universities, whose employees or applicants were named in the federal bribery investigation, "have complied with regulations and requirements pertaining to the federal student aid program.”

UCLA, USC, Wake Forest, and Georgetown have said they will cooperate with the investigation.

Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Donna Heinel (L) former senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California arrives for her arraignment at Boston Federal Court on March 25, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. A dozen coaches, athletic directors and test proctors are being arraigned in relation to the college admissions scandal on Monday.

The Education Department’s action comes two weeks after federal prosecutors announced what they called the largest college admissions cheating scandal in US history, involving 50 people, including celebrities, prominent Silicon Valley business leaders, tech moguls, decorated coaches, athletic directors, professors, and college testing administrators.

To secure their child’s entry into the elite school of their choice, wealthy parents paid Rick Singer, a 58-year-old life coach from Newport Beach, California, thousands of dollars to boost SAT and ACT scores and fabricate their children’s achievements, including Photoshopping a prospective student’s head onto an athlete’s body to snag a spot on a sports team.

In all, prosecutors said the ringleader earned about $25 million and got more than 700 students into top schools.

Now the Education Department is demanding universities tied to the scandal turn over information about their admissions standards, policies, recruiting tactics, marketing materials, and compliance reviews for students recruited to athletic teams since Jan. 1, 2009.

Investigators also want the names of employees charged in connection with the investigation, how the university has disciplined them, and a comprehensive list of all students tied to the scandal, as well as their records.

If the schools violated any federal education regulations, they could lose access to grants and student loan money.

Several schools have already fired head coaches and employees for taking bribes to falsely endorse high schoolers’ athletic abilities, as well as rescind students’ admissions.

Yale said that it had thoroughly checked the athletic credentials of all potential students dating back to 2015 and found that, “with the exception of the single student who was fraudulently admitted ... all enrolled Yale students who were admitted with an athletic endorsement played at least one season on their varsity sports team.”

“The admission of the student who received a fraudulent endorsement has been rescinded,” the school's president said.

USC, the university most embroiled in the scandal, announced that it will deny all applicants linked to the scam and has frozen the accounts of current students allegedly involved as their cases are reviewed.

Read the letter here:

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.