Mom Agreed to Pay $1.5M to Elite College Consulting Firm

Mom Agreed to Pay $1.5M to Elite College Consulting Firm
Susan Dutca-Lovell

A mom who agreed to pay $1.5 million to a college-admissions consultant to help her child get into a prestigious prep school and Ivy League College is now being sued for allegedly paying only half the fee. The Manhattan-based firm, The Ivy Coach, says the family is part of the "international aristocracy who have enlisted Ivy Coach's premium services."

For some families, paying $9,999 for a weekend "boot camp" on college admissions may be a drop in the bucket. The lawsuit against Vietnamese mother Buoi Thi Bui claims that she promised to pay the $1.5 million fee in two installments but allegedly did not pay the remaining $750,000. The lawsuit also alleges that, at some point, the Ivy coach "became concerned about whether pull payment would be made" after Bui decided she wanted to see early-decision results before making final payments; she had assured the firm that the family would honor its contract.

Bui's daughter, Vinh Ngoc Dao reportedly received "substantial guidance and effort" in applying to Amherst, Dartmouth and Williams Colleges; Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, New York, Northwestern, Princeton, Stanford and Tufts Universities; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the Universities of California (Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego campuses); Chicago, Pennsylvania and Southern California. Additionally, Ivy Coach's Bev Taylor assisted Dao in applying to seven boarding schools and ultimately helped her get into the Solebury School in Pennsylvania - a private prep school that costs more than $55,000 a year. According to the lawsuit, the hefty fee was worth it. In December, Dao was granted early admission and accepted to an "unnamed Ivy League institution"; a social media post suggests she was accepted to Dartmouth.

In addition to losing out on the value of the contract, the firm also lost the opportunity to engage in equally lucrative business with clients, according to the suit. "Ivy Coach also chose to forgo helping other families and students seeking its expertise and guidance - including those who would pay for the full value of the services and benefits provided." Although the fee may seem exorbitant and above the industry norm - with independent consultants charging $85-$350 an hour and offering comprehensive packages ranging from $850-$10,000 - Ivy Coach defends its prices, claiming that "the parents of our students appreciate that it is worth investing to help their children earn admission to an outstanding school when they'd otherwise earn admission only to a pretty good school." Others believe that, although its practices are legal, the firm "borders on unethical because it's not clear what value they are adding." According to the contract, Bui agreed to pay the $1.5 million regardless of whether her daughter was accepted anywhere.

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