Saturday, May 30, 2015

Surge of Chinese Applicants Tests U.S. Colleges

It'd be racist to call this an "invasion," but no doubt the Chinese are gaming America on a number of fronts. The birth tourism racket is over the top, for example. And now here comes college admissions fraud. Top that off with the surge in Chinese immigrants, to the point that they've overtaken Hispanics as the top immigrant group to the U.S., and you can see how this stuff's getting out of control.

At WSJ, "Wider admissions from overseas leave schools vulnerable to fraud, experts say":
As U.S. universities search farther afield for international students, they are boosting not just their cash flow and their campus diversity, but also the likelihood of admissions fraud, experts say.

On Thursday, a U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh announced indictments against 15 Chinese nationals on charges that they cheated on college-entrance exams by hiring impostors to take the tests for them. Several of the students ended up at schools across the U.S.

“This is a group of Chinese, but I believe the problem of protecting the integrity of [college admission tests] is bigger than that,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.

In recent years, fraud on college-entrance exams has also been uncovered in students from South Korea, as well as from several states in the U.S. More students from a greater number of countries are seeking admissions to American campuses, bringing recruiters into more rural areas where academic standards and test-taking security can be less stringent, said Michael Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

“What we hear from schools is that when students arrive at college campuses from China, you see once they begin their studies an incongruity between their performance and what their portfolio suggested they should be able to do,” Mr. Reilly said.

In the 2013-14 academic year, the number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities rose 8% from a year earlier to nearly 900,000, according to the Institute of International Education. Leading that surge were 274,439 Chinese students, an increase of nearly 17% from the year before.

While earlier students from China were largely the cream of the crop, more of these recent arrivals are struggling with academics, Mr. Reilly said.

China’s colleges rely almost exclusively on results from the national college entrance exam, known as the gaokao, in their admission decisions. As a result of that singular focus on test scores at domestic institutions, Chinese students put extra emphasis on their exam performances when applying to U.S. schools, said Marc Zawel, co-founder and chief executive of AcceptU, a Boston-based admission-consulting firm that works extensively with international students.

“They see the gaokao as essentially deciding where they’re going to go, and they see the SAT or ACT doing the same,” he said. Mr. Zawel said some U.S. schools struggle to validate high-school transcripts from overseas students, and so rely on standardized scores with the assumption that they are more authentic or reflective of a student’s abilities.

Schools have begun to shift their international admissions strategies in an acknowledgment that the tests can be gamed. Mr. Zawel said some of his clients now must participate in interviews with schools to prove their mastery of the English language, even if they scored well on the Educational Testing Service-administered Test of English as a Foreign Language, or Toefl. A high score could indicate comprehensive test preparation rather than actual fluency.

Mr. Zawel said most applicants want to follow the rules, though his team sometimes loses prospective clients after explaining that they won’t write essays or forge recommendation letters on applicants’ behalf—both of which he said are common services among Chinese admission consultants.

“China is the wild west of admission counseling,” he said. “Many agencies advise students in ways that cross a line.”