I'm teaching in an American university and I think the reason so many people on here are mainly only shocked that it's illegal to do what these people do, is because the legal paths to an elite university for the rich and powerful are barely distinguishable from what these people did.
When Jared Kushner was in high school he was described as, at best, an average student. The year before he went to college his father donated millions to Harvard, legally, and wouldn't you know it, the boy genius made it in!
But even beyond that, the college admissions system is farcical over here. Students grades matter a lot, but they also factor in extra curricular activities, your application essay, etc etc. What becomes clear at every stage is that rich people can get a leg up on every aspect of this. Grinds to prep for the SAT, pay for expensive activities like lacrosse etc.
Athletics scholarships, outside of football and basketball, are also basically just a way to give rich white folks a leg up in the applications process. Soccer, tennis, lacrosse, softball, you name it there's places in college for playing it, and they are played overwhelmingly by rich white folks. Harvard grades out students on a six point scale. If you have a 4 on that scale, your odds of getting in are 0.074%. If you have a 4 on that scale and are going to play a sport with them, it increases to 33%. Nobody in their right mind is actually watching these sports, so it's just affirmative action for rich people.
Honestly even though in Ireland our rich little boys and girls can get a leg up by going to fee paying schools and stuff, I still miss the CAO system to be honest.
And that's setting aside the fact that college is outrageously expensive anyway, far beyond the reach of most non rich people either way. When I worked at Notre Dame, students were paying nearly 50 grand a YEAR to be there, just for undergraduate.
I now work at a very much non-elite, university in Texas where the admission rate is very high (ie non-selective) and the fees are "low" (under ten grand a year counts as low), and I work with students from some really tough backgrounds, people with parents in jail, brought up in drug-dens, I work with single mothers and military veterans, children of illegal immigrants. The struggles some of my students have been through to get where they are, and the work they put in when they're in my classes...when I read about these people bribing coaches and stuff it makes me want to puke, but to be honest the real scandal is the amount of stuff that's actually legal in this system.
(As an aside a few people mentioned that failing students are often let slide or get a bump on their grade. I've never encountered this in any institution, elite or not. With athletes, I have more often found that they lay on lots of extra tuition for them to keep their grades up (another leg up for the lads). I had football players who thought they were allowed do what they wanted to, but they were not)