After the scandal broke in March 2019, lawmakers in several states launched reform efforts. The most sweeping was in California, where the proposals included a requirement that college admissions consultants register with the secretary of state's office. But Sklarow said it quickly became clear that the idea was impractical, and it died in committee. A handful or proposals in other states suffered a similar fate.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom did sign into law a scaled-down package of bills in October requiring, among other things, that state universities adopt tighter controls on "admission by exception," where students are admitted outside the normal processes. And the University of California Board of Regents approved a plan in May to phase out use of the SAT and ACT over the next five years.
But in California and nationwide, college admissions coaches are, for the most part, continuing to regulate themselves.
"I think California came up with some crazy figure like $15 million just to sort of make a list of consultants without even any real background check work," Sklarow said.
Besides, he said, lawmakers realized that there were already professional organizations including his IECA and the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners that are setting standards and certifying consultants. Sklarow said his organization offered to help states set standards had any of the proposals become law, but it soon became clear that state certification would be redundant at best.
"No state was proposing anything that was as aggressive as what is already in place," he said.
The IECA, established in 1976, requires its members to hold a master's degree in counseling or a related field — which Sklarow said the organization verifies by transcript. Consultants must have worked with at least 50 families over a three-year period before they are considered for membership, and they must pass background and security checks. They must also agree to abide by the organization's Principles of Good Practice governing things like competence and conflicts of interest. The organization offers an online directory of its members, and it has a robust process for resolving complaints.
Sklarow said membership applications and other inquiries to his organization have surged since Operation Varsity Blues came to light. He also said it is worth noting that Rick Singer never once tried to become a member during his more than 25 years in the business.
"He wouldn't have gotten past, probably, an initial review," Sklarow said.
Not only did Singer lack the counseling background the organization requires, Sklarow believes Singer's marketing — which emphasized his purported ability to get students into the college of their choice — would not have passed the organization's scrutiny.
"We're looking for promises that we know can't be kept," he said. "We're looking for any sort of language that talks about (how) the consultant can get you in, which is what Rick Singer had on his website, rather than we'll help you find the best match for you."