The actress Lori Loughlin was released from federal prison in Dublin, Calif., on Monday, having completed a two-month sentence for conspiring to pass her daughters off as rowers so they would be admitted to the University of Southern California.
Ms. Loughlin, best known for playing Aunt Becky on the 1990s sitcom “Full House,” was among more than three dozen wealthy parents, many of them in Southern California, who were caught up in a sprawling scheme to bribe coaches, test administrators and others to help their children get into college. The ringleader, William Singer, a California college admissions consultant, cooperated with federal investigators to bring charges against his well-heeled clients, as well as a dozen coaches and others.
The case cast a harsh spotlight on the arms race of college admissions preparation in elite circles, where parents pay tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for SAT tutoring and coaching in arcane sports that will lift their children’s chances of getting into a prestigious school.
While this system already favored the wealthy, the parents convicted in the admissions case sought to corrupt it further by inflating their children’s test scores or presenting them as accomplished athletes when they in fact were not. Ms. Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 as part of the scheme.
Another actress, Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to inflate her daughter’s SAT score, served 11 days at the same prison as Ms. Loughlin, 35 miles east of San Francisco. Ms. Huffman seems now to have completed her comeback, signing her first role since she was arrested in the scandal.
But unlike Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli, Ms. Huffman pleaded guilty and expressed contrition early. Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli fought the charges for over a year, before pleading guilty in May to fraud.
Mr. Giannulli, who prosecutors said took a more active role in the fraud than Ms. Loughlin did, was sentenced to five months in prison and is scheduled to be released in April.
Ms. Loughlin has not given an interview since she was charged, but her younger daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, who had a career as a social media influencer before her parents’ arrest, recently appeared on “Red Table Talk,” the Facebook show hosted by Jada Pinkett-Smith; her daughter, Willow; and Ms. Pinkett-Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
In the interview, she said that when her parents were arrested, she did not understand at first what people were so upset about.
“I remember thinking, ‘How are people mad about this?’” she said. “Like, I know that sounds so silly, but in the bubble that I grew up in, I didn’t know so much outside of it, and a lot of kids in that bubble, their parents were donating to schools and doing stuff that advantaged — so many advantages. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but it was happening.”
She said she now understood that she was benefiting from enormous privilege — so much so that she had been comfortable saying in a YouTube video that she didn’t care about school and was just going to college for “game days, partying.”
“That sits with me and makes me cringe, and it’s embarrassing that I ever said those types of things,” she said.
Lucy Tompkins and Michael Levenson contributed reporting.