Lori Loughlin poses with her daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli, left, at the 2019 “An Unforgettable Evening” in Beverly Hills, Calif.Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Yesterday, People magazine reported that Olivia Jade has “no plans” to return to USC at the end of her spring break. This week, her mother, Full House actress Lori Loughlin was released on a $1 million bail after surrendering to the authorities. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli (who was also charged and released on bail) were charged with paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC by bribing coaches to designate them as athletic recruits for the crew team—despite neither girl rowing competitively.
The Giannullis have a combined estimated net worth of $88 million, $80 million of which comes from Mr. Giannulli, whose clothing company, Mossimo, was licensed to Target in 2000. This net worth makes the Giannullis one-percenters, but not at the level of, say, the Kushners (who are estimated to be worth $1.8 billion), making it more feasible to legally donate the millions of dollars it took to facilitate Jared Kushner’s admission to Harvard. It’s possible that the Giannullis could have managed to donate $5 million or so to USC, but that kind of legal donation isn’t a ‘sure thing’ and still requires the student to be relatively qualified for the school. Still, there are other ways that any pair of 1%ers can spend their money that is ethical—and would instill stronger values in their children in the long-term.
Instead of bribing coaches to lie about your children’s athletic ability, why not invest in developing that ability? The majority of families who have at least $25k in assets and have a child who plays sports pay between $1,200 and $6,000 per year on athletic training and other sports expenses. The high end, making up 8% of these parents, paid more than $24,000 per year per child. With Lori Loughlin’s $250,000-per-daughter budget, that’s ten years of high-end training, coaching, and equipment that could have turned her daughters into all-star athletes. One Olympian, former U.S. speed skater Eric Flaim who is a two-time silver medalist, estimated that his decade-plus of training and competing cost about $250,000. This roughly matches this article’s estimates about the cost of Olympic training for most sports—and moreover, there are Olympians who trained on the streets (maybe not ice skaters) and rose to success with no monetary support from their families.
Olivia Jade didn’t even have to be Olympic-level talented at a sport to get recruited to USC, either—but there’s one component missing here, and that’s time and effort. This college admissions cheating scandal, at its heart, is about parents trying to help their children take the ‘easy way out.’ Taking the high road takes time and hard work in addition to money—but supporting your child in their athletic endeavors sets up them up for success in college and beyond. Participating in sports throughout childhood helps them build character, teaches them how to fail and rebound from mistakes, how to be resilient, and how to work in a team. Studies have shown that former student-athletes tend to get better jobs with better pay, their managers find that they have greater confidence and leadership abilities, and they are better able to focus.
That being said, if your daughter isn’t interested in sports, don’t push her in that direction—either in reality or in a fiction you bribe coaches to create. My philosophy is that students should pursue their true passions and take them to the ‘next level’—and it seems like that’s exactly what Olivia Jade has been doing. She’s interested in makeup and creating YouTube videos, and she’s been successful at it. Her makeup line was even being sold in Sephora—until they pulled it from stores in the wake of this scandal. And it’s not as though the Giannullis are strangers to putting other goals before college—it seems that Mossimo Giannulli himself dropped out of USC to pursue his fashion designing dreams. But somewhere along the way, it seems that the Giannullis decided that bragging rights and their own egos were more important than the true aspirations (and mental/emotional wellbeing) of their children.