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The Chinese Student Syndrome

A Chinese student checks out various universities during an International Education Expo in Beijing.

It's a match made in the global economy. Chinese students covet diplomas from American colleges and universities, and they've got the prosperity to pay full tuition. American universities hammered by budget cuts need the money. In the middle, are hundreds of agencies in China with one purpose: to make the match. More than 130,000 Chinese students now attend universities here.

But first, those students need to navigate the American college admissions system, which is nothing like the process in China. That's where the agencies come in. While they claim to guide students through the process, many do much more than that. Former employees of one agency told Marketplace they routinely faked application materials for students -- writing their essays and recommendation letters, and even persuading high schools to change the students' grades.

In this joint report from Shanghai Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz and Education Correspondent Amy Scott, Marketplace explores the Chinese Student Syndrome -- how U.S. colleges are grappling with the questionable credentials coming from China, even as they profit from the system.

MORE STORIES IN THIS SERIES:

Chinese students, too qualified to be true?

The lure of Chinese students

Foreign students in U.S. at record high

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When a Chinese student is admitted, a US student is denied. For land-grant universities (U Illinois, Wisconsin and most state universities), this is a VIOLATION of the land-grant charter, which established these universities for the education of the citizens of the state. When I attended U Illinois in 1970-1975, 1/4 of my class did as well. When my children were admitted in 2008, only 1/20 of their class went with them. The school has gotten more expensive, and no longer performs the land-grant mission of being open to all. This is wrong, and should be fixed. These universities should educate American students first.

Having worked at two American universities, domestic recruiting and international recruiting are not from one pool. Your belief that it is a "one-for-one" isn't correct. Schools typically have a quota (or rough idea) of the total number of domestic students they will accept and total number of internationals.

With the NYT's article The China Conundrum, and this one, I wanted to highlight that the bad apples should not outshine what can and should be a positive institutional move. Recruiting international students should be a positive move that allows schools to promote their institution as a diverse campus (and "diverse campus community" is without a doubt, an important deciding factor for American students looking at schools).

I wanted to just highlight groups that are bringing international students to the US, vetting them appropriately, and ensuring their support on campus. Beida Jade Bird International Education brings students to US schools for ESL programs that are tailored to their abilities - these students are engaged in the campus community and are eager to participate. This isn't easily done, but we are successful because we get buy-in from our partner institutions' administration, faculty, and student body. When American students meet our Chinese students at the airport, have language sessions, and cultural recaps, we know we're "internationalizing campuses" the right way.

Just keep this in mind. This might be interesting http://bjbie.blogspot.com/2011/11/industry-news-responding-to-increase-i...

This is a great report but biased in my opinion.

Why are you singling out the Chinese kids? Is it because they are the largest exporter of international students? Transcript fraud is prevalent in Asia. I have encountered Korean students who barely speak any English on a scholarship to study in the U.S.

Second, the issue is deeper than cheating students and agencies. (Yes, you guy did touch on that..) The commercialization of American education, global education actually, helps establish a demand-supply circle. Let's not forget that these Chinese kids are a hard-working, well-performing bunch. Yes, cheating is wrong. But what about American agencies who serve the crowd of upper-middle class kids on their essays to get into an Ivy League school? What is the difference?

Last but not least, there are millions of students who do not go through an agency and apply to American schools on their own. It would be nice if you can provide some background information (like how many people use an agency vs. how many go without.)
Thi

I am sorry but I feel like defending these students. I was one of them. I graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai and came to an American graduate school on a scholarship. Now a working professional and a mother, I can never forget those days when I pulled up an all-nighter to prepare my application package: transcripts, essays, recommendation letters... I did it all by myself, and I thrived.

This report is scandalous. It shows how profit drives even academia. More importantly, it illustrates the unsurprising ignorance of the Tea Party's push to radically shrink the size of government. It is ironic too, because for all of their jingoistic rhetoric, the Tea Party is really a negative force that will seriously harm not just students, but the entire country.

It's not profit, but survival. The universities take money to support. As state support has dwindled, the money needs to come from somewhere.

Why should we care, it is not fear, if you had a child applying to college, you would care also, there are a limited number of openings. As with so many things, it all comes down to money.

These agencies take money to to fake admissions documents for foreign students who, quite likely, will be offered admission to American universities, leaving fewer spaces for the "less qualified" (at least on paper) American students who also apply. But nobody cares?

If there were agencies providing this service to American students, it would be a huge scandal and we'd be calling for heads to roll.

I realize the show has investment in China because of trips made and you likely have several segments in the can ready to air, however the recent stories are just not very interesting. Just because you have them isn't a good reason to use limited air time on them. We are undergoing a pivotal time in our economy and you are telling a story about Chinese college admission agencies. Who cares?

And we are afraid of these people why?

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