TODAY | September 29, 2011
>>> cheating scandal that rocked one new york community and it comes as days before an estimated 700,000 high school students are set to take the grueling test this weekend. we're in great neck, new york with more. mara, good morning.
>> reporter: good morning. the s.a.t. is considered the most important test a student will take in high school . here at great neck north high school the students are considered the best and the brightest in the country but this morning their community is feeling the sting of a scandal after six current and former students are accused of fraudulently having a classmate take the test for them. prosecutors say 19-year-old sam eshaghoff was paid between $ 1500 and $2500 to take the s.a.t. test for students. he is a graduate of great neck north high school and now a sophomore at emory university . prosecutors say he used fake i.d.s to impersonate the six students including one female at testing centers where the students wouldn't be known. the s.a.t. 's top score is 2400. the national average is about 1500 . eshaghoff scored well above that average.
>> scores were 2220, 2210, 2140, 2180. what these six kids did was they took an opportunity away from every other child.
>> reporter: four of the accused are already in college. two are still enrolled at great neck north. in recent years it has been named one of the country's top 100 high schools .
>> if they have the money on hand and i guess they can, like have the opportunity, it's just not that surprising.
>> reporter: while some students are not surprised by the scandal, others say the pressure to get into college is too intense.
>> i feel it's really competitive and really hard.
>> reporter: students' s.a.t. scores can be critical for their future.
>> i think the pressure on students right now to get into very good schools is really great. the students who get into elite universities have a better chance to get into elite grad schools which means they have a better chance of getting high paying jobs later on. so there is a lot at stake and they understand it.
>> reporter: eshaghoff faces up to four years in prison if convicted. he has pled not guilty. his attorney says the case is not a matter for criminal court .
>> even if something happened it happened within school grounds. it was when they were under age. the issue should be handled administratively within the school.
>> reporter: the students accused of paying eshaghoff are facing unspecified misdemeanor charges and are not identified due to their ages. the investigation has been widened to two other area high schools . ann?
>> thank you so much for your reporting on this story.