A group of 15 Chinese citizens are accused of conspiring to help foreign students gain admission to American universities and thus obtain student visas by providing intelligent imposters to take college entrance exams for their clients, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Thursday.
The newly unsealed indictment lays out what some observers are calling one of the more brazen testing-related scandals of the decade. Though, the Department of Justice says that this may just be “the tip of the iceberg” in a vast international conspiracy to defraud American schools and the American immigration system.
The Justice Department says that for the past four years the defendants have provided counterfeit Chinese passports to imposters that are used to trick Educational Testing Services (ETC). The counterfeit test takers have taken the SAT, GRE and TOEFL in test centers mostly located in western Pennsylvania. Some of the defendants are also accused of taking tests for clients themselves.
At this time, it’s unclear how many students paid for the service and used their fraudulent test scores to get into American universities and obtain student visas.
If the defendants are found guilty, they could face a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands in fines.
Last year alone, more than 450,000 Chinese students went overseas to study with many choosing the U.S., where students from China account for nearly one-third of all international students and provide an alluring source of income for struggling universities. Many Chinese students focus on getting accepted into the top universities that America has to offer, even if they aren’t prepared to handle the workload.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some 8,000 Chinese students were expelled from American universities last year alone, mostly due to poor grades and cheating. But, to give some context, that’s out of an estimated 274,439 Chinese students enrolled in the U.S. last year. Putting the expulsion rate at 3%. Which doesn’t seem half bad? Unfortunately, data on overall expulsion rates for U.S. universities is hard to come by.
“Chinese students used to be considered top-notch but over the past five years their image has changed completely — wealthy kids who cheat,” Chen Hang, chief development officer at a professional education company, told the Wall Street Journal.
Of course, cheating scandals like this one have been known to happen in China, from time to time. But, as Chinese students upgrade their cheating gear, so do administrators enhance their surveillance tactics. We’ll see how foreign universities respond.
by Alex Linder