Application Fraud Common for Chinese Students Applying to US Colleges

Many US colleges and universities are concerned about fraudulent applications being being received from Chinese students. Timothy Pratt, reporting for Diverse Education, writes that admission officials and others have found high school transcripts which have been falsified, plagiarized essays, discrepancies between English-language test scores and an applicants actual ability to speak English, and forged letters of recommendations.

In 2011, the last period studied, admissions offices across the nation reported that 90% of the Chinese recommendation letters that they received had been falsified. This number was verified by the US educational consulting firm Zinch China. Of the essays written, 70% were found to be written by someone other than the applicant. And, 50% of transcripts had been changed from the original.

"Nobody has reliable data on how much it happens," says Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education. However, he adds, there has been "a lot of discussion" at national meetings of registrars about preventing transcript fraud, an indication of the issue's importance.

More Chinese students are applying and US colleges and universities are recruiting them based on much-needed tuition influx. Budgets are hurt by lower state funding and more American students needing financial aid.

"There are a lot of Chinese students and parents trying to get into the best quality schools they can," says Eddie West, director of international initiatives for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC. "Obviously there's competition and incentives to cut corners, including submitting fraudulent applications."

Chinese students applying for entrance into Chinese schools do so by taking one test. The complicated US application process is confusing for them. West adds:

"There's not a culture or practice of putting together admissions packages," he says. "So third-party recruiters, unscrupulous recruiters among them, have moved into that space."

Fees to recruiters can rise as high as $10,000 and can include bonuses for admission to those schools considered among the best. For only about a decade, have there been international admissions offices and staff.

Efforts are being made to crack down on the fraudulent admissions paperwork. Chris Boehner has founded Vericant, a company that interviews applicants face-to-face and videos conversations. Admission officers add that most Chinese students submit valid paperwork and, if accepted, tend to do very well at their schools.

In a survey of colleges and universities in the five major developing countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), Chinese schools of higher learning led the rankings.

The study added that China was the most likely of the BRICS to develop world-class universities. There are problems, however, in the Chinese academic community. These include widespread plagiarism in research, no political autonomy at universities, and misdirected emphasis on personal connections, according to Outlook India.

And, in an article for USA Today, Mary Beth Marklein reports that tens of thousands of foreign students are enrolling in US high schools. This is in order to take the first step towards being accepted in a US college or university.

In fact, the number of foreign students receiving visas in order to study in the US has more than tripled since 2004, says a study from the Institute of International Education. Some students come as part of a cultural exchange program, which normally run for an academic year, or less. Others are coming because of the academic advantages.

"Their ultimate goal is US higher education," says Christine Farrugia, a researcher with the institute's Center for Academic Mobility Research. "They're looking at the college placement records of these schools, their SAT scores. They're focused on those sorts of indicators and things that would prepare them well" when they apply to colleges.

The trend involves primarily private schools and is not without its controversies. One example cites that Chinese students exhibit a "continued lack of transparency and unwillingness to engage honestly and openly with the community,"

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