As American colleges remain the premier destination for the academic elite in Asia, many students are feeling pressured into resorting into drastic cheating measures to get their highly sought after places, writes Patrick Winn at the Global Post.
Depending on the degree of assistance, students and their families can expect to pay between $5,000 and $15,000 for ghostwritten essays in ï¬awless English, fake awards, manipulated transcripts and even imposters to sit as the applicant for SAT exams, all arranged by college prep agencies.
According to a recent survey by Zinch China, as many as 90 percent of recommendation letters to foreign colleges are faked, 70 percent of college essays are ghostwritten and 50 percent of high school transcripts are falsiï¬ed.
Tom Melcher, chairman of Zinch China says:
"For the right price, the agent will either fabricate it or work with the school to get a different transcript issued."
And it's a lucrative business. For every admission into a top 10 or top 30 school, these agencies are set to receive bonuses between $3,000 and $10,000.
To put that into context, there are currently nearly 158,000 Chinese students are enrolled in US colleges at any given time, making up more than one in ï¬ve foreign students studying in the country.
"International students are seen as a source of revenue â¦ and the trend has exploded in the past two years," said Dale Gough, international education director for AACRAO, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
While America has ceded manufacturing power and foreign inï¬uence to China, an American degree remains the gold standard of educational prestige, writes Winn.
"The allure of America's universities, and the pressure-cooker drive to succeed among Asia's expanding upper class, will continue to propel Asian students into American schools."
How can it be stopped? Many believe interviewing all Chinese students via online video chats, conducting spot tests in English, and hiring a mainland Chinese staffer in the college's home office will help slow the trend down.
But Melcher believes that as long as the risks are low and the rewards are so high this culture of cheating will continue.
"Frankly, I feel really bad for Chinese families who are trying to be honest," he said.
"They're driving 55 while everyone's zooming past them. After a while, they throw up their hands and say, âFine, I'll speed up.'"