Shady Agents Help Chinese Students Enter US Universities

Posted March 21st, 2012 at 2:20 am (UTC-5)
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A record number of Chinese are now studying at U.S. universities. But admissions experts say many of those students are turning to dishonest admissions agents to help fake their application materials.

Phillip Ballinger, who chairs a committee formed by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, says “many, if not the majority” of Chinese students applying for U.S. colleges employ agents to help navigate the complicated application process.

But, he told VOA, the agents often go beyond acting as traditional admissions counselors — sometimes filling out applications and writing essays in flawless English, and even changing high school grades.

“Frequently that means that they actually do their applications. They write their essays, they in some cases even create their transcripts and….the only exceptions often are the test scores we receive.”

Ballinger says in some cases, the students or families pay admissions agents steep fees. In other cases, he says U.S. universities actually encourage the behavior by paying the agents a commission for each student placed.

Chinese enrollment at U.S. universities has increased dramatically in recent years as China's economy has improved and parents have become able to afford to send their children to America's coveted universities.

Observers say that many cash-strapped universities are willing to look the other way since most foreign students pay full tuition for their education. Many U.S. students receive scholarships or other forms of assistance.

Ballinger is the assistant vice president for enrollment at the University of Washington in Seattle. He said such behavior ultimately lowers the quality of education for all those involved. He said the practice is also common in India and South Korea.

“It concerns us greatly, because that makes the student an 'economic object,' as opposed to a student you wished could be well-placed in a university or learn more about a university so that when he or she enrolls at that university they'll be successful and have a good experience.”

A recent report by the Institute of International Education found that nearly 158,000 Chinese students studied in the U.S. in the last academic year, making it the largest contributor of international students. Twenty-two percent of international students in the U.S. are from China.