International students from across the world are flocking to America’s higher education institutions in greater numbers than ever, particularly students coming from China.
The benefits of Chinese students’ presence are obvious: increased diversity, numerous economic benefits and increased competitiveness for U.S. universities on a global scale .
American universities are focused on heavy recruiting, however, in those areas without considering the effect on the application process for Chinese students.
As a result of increased pressure to attend a top-notch American university, some Chinese students are turning to college placement agencies to put them on a guaranteed track to American schools.
According to Bloomberg, the number of Chinese agencies has risen four times since 2006, with 400 agencies in China.
How could a foreign agency ever promise enrollment in American colleges, especially for students who might have less-than-stellar grades? It’s simple — by writing students’ application essays, providing fake transcripts and fake recommendation letters, and receiving a hefty sum in return.
It’s a lucrative business in China. Schmidt interviewed two employees who work for a placement agency, Shanghai Shenyuan, who said they wrote application essays for three out of every four students.
It might seem like a distant problem, but Shanghai Shenyuan has had partnerships with more than a dozen American universities. And that’s just one placement company.
The popularity of such companies sheds light on a pandemic of pressure and cheating that has infiltrated America’s higher education institutions.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Nov. 14 that USC is the U.S. university with highest foreign enrollment with more than 8,600 international students enrolled for the 2010-2011 academic year. The foreign country from which the most students hailed: China.
It’s time for universities to rethink their application processes in order to lessen the need for services such as these agencies.
For Chinese students who have a completely different college admissions system — high school students just take one test that determines where they will attend college — the overload of SAT, ACT, recommendations and essays necessary to present yourself as a qualified student in the United States can be understandably overwhelming and stressful.
This is where the college placement agencies come in.
Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for the American Public Radio’s program Marketplace, recently reported on these controversial agencies.
“If you walk down the street in Shanghai, it’s hard to miss the advertisements for college placement agencies. In big bold letters, they promise — some even guarantee — your child’s admission to an American university. The price: $5,000, $6,000, sometimes $7,000,” Schmitz said in a Marketplace broadcast.
One way to prevent falsified applications and the overwhelming pressure of the application process is for universities to place a heavier emphasis on interviews.
Interviews cannot be faked and they give most students a much better chance at presenting themselves to schools than they could on paper.
It’s easy to get caught up in the economic and academic appeal of foreign students, but universities need to look beyond this and fix the process that brings them here.
Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish. Her column “Beyond the Classroom ran Mondays.