Actress Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in prison for paying to rig her daughter's university entrance exams.

US District Judge Indira Talwani rejected pleas from the former Desperate Housewives actress and her attorney who insisted the TV star was "remorseful and should be spared incarceration".

Huffman was arrested in the investigation named "Operation Varsity Blues," which accused wealthy parents of paying bribes to help their children get into elite universities across the country.

Felicity Huffman said
Felicity Huffman said "everything else (the prosecutor) said I did, I did." Photo / AP

She is among 14 parents who agreed to plead guilty to charges in the case.

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Huffman was accused of paying a consultant, Rick Singer, $US15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to boost her daughter's SAT score. Authorities say the 56-year-old actress also discussed going through with the same plan for her younger daughter, but ultimately decided not to.

Other parents charged in the scheme include prominent figures in law, finance, fashion, the food and beverage industry and other fields.

It's the biggest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the US Justice Department, embroiling elite universities across the country and laying bare the lengths to which status-seeking parents will go to secure their children a coveted spot.

Singer met with Huffman and her husband, 69-year-old actor William H Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained to them he "controlled" a testing centre and could have somebody secretly change their daughter's answers, authorities say.

Singer told investigators Huffman and her husband agreed to the plan.