Dozens of rich people and their collaborators have been arrested for fraudulent schemes to have already very privileged young people admitted to allegedly élite universities. Some parents bribed proctors of the SAT or the ACT so that a child could take the test with, shall we say, a little help. Others bribed coaches and others to pass their children off as recruited athletes deserving of extra attention and, of course, lower standards at the admissions office. Reportedly much of the money went through a charitable organization, and some of the people involved took tax deductions for their "donations".
I fully concur that the acts alleged are contemptible and that they should be punished aggressively. But does anyone really believe, as the prosecutor claimed, that "there can be no separate college-admissions system for the wealthy"? A separate system for the wealthy has existed for decades, and much of it is perfectly legal. Read Daniel Golden's book The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—And Who Gets Left outside the Gates. (Golden, incidentally, wrote the article cited above.)
Is Junior uncompetitive for Ivy? Call the "development" office and work out a donation, maybe a couple of million dollars, that may ever-so-coincidentally come to the attention of the people down the hall in admissions. As long as there is no formal quid pro quo, you should even be able to deduct the donation. Of course, this strategy works only if you have that much money and can afford to part with it—in other words, if you're filthy rich.
You may not have to go that far: your name may be enough. When it discovered that it had rejected a British princess, "horrified" Newcastle University back-pedaled and admitted her after all, blaming an "Italian" admissions officer for failing to consider that Her Disgrace "may have had more significance for the institution than another applicant"—than some poor slob like Old Guy, that is. US universities likewise fall all over themselves to welcome the scions of the rich and the prominent (usually one and the same).
If your own name doesn't command attention, you can have a well-placed person pull strings with the university. This ploy works especially well if you happen to be friends with the golfing partner of the university's president. Not many of us, however, can claim that distinction.
Or, if you yourself attended the university in question, or your spouse or another relative of your child's did, then your child counts as a "legacy" and gets special consideration. Again, this strategy doesn't work for people like Old Guy who are "legacies" of nothing in particular.
Those are just a few of the ways in which one can exercise direct influence over the admissions office. Indirect influence takes thousands of forms, many of them requiring money but all of them considered perfectly legitimate: aristocratic and expensive private schools, music lessons, élite sports (think polo and lacrosse—no competition here from the kid at East Bumblefuck High School), foreign travel, costly tutors for the SAT, even costlier "admissions consultants".
The tactics listed in the last few paragraphs may not strike you as fraudulent, unlike the purchasing of SAT scores or the bribing of the university's personnel. But they prove the existence of a "separate college-admissions system for the wealthy", one that takes up spaces that might otherwise go to lowly commoners.