For all the ills the global economy’s having right now, China’s having none of it. GDP growth there last quarter was 9.1 percent.
But getting into school there and getting into school here aren’t the same thing. Chinese high schoolers take one test for all the marbles. Here we’ve got the SATs, teacher recommendations, students essays, transcripts. So China’s now got a booming industry of college-placement companies that — for the right price — promise to secure a spot in an American school.
He has followed college placement agencies for years. He says this is how many of them deliver on their admission promises: they falsify students application materials.
JIANG XUEQIN: There’s a lot of pressure on the agencies to write the application essays, to fake transcripts, to fake recommendation letters. This is just general business practice in China to falsify a lot of documentation.
Zinch estimates 90 percent of these students submitted false recommendation letters; 70 percent had other people write their personal essays, and half of them submitted forged high school transcripts. Two former employees of a college placement agency told Marketplace they routinely falsified application materials. We did not use their names, because they feared they would lose their current jobs.
Here’s how the agency works: A student comes to Shanghai Shenyuan for help getting into a U.S. school. If Shenyuan succeeds, the agency collects — usually from the parents — the equivalent of $6,000. Both former employees say this put pressure on them to make absolutely sure that students were admitted to a U.S. college, even if they didn’t have the grades to get in.
ANONYMOUS EMPLOYEE 2: They’d definitely not be accepted to American colleges with their transcripts. But if students tell their high schools they’re applying to an American college, most schools will revise their grades to reflect a B or an A average. So that they can boast that their students are admitted by well-known American colleges.
Both employees estimated they wrote college application essays for three out of every four students the agency handled.
Over the years, Shanghai Shenyuan has had partnerships with more than a dozen U.S. universities, including the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. For weeks, Shanghai Shenyuan’s director ignored Marketplace’s repeated requests for an interview. But then we approached the University of Wisconsin and shared what we had found. That university promptly terminated its relationship with Shenyuan. The next day, Zhang Hong, Shanghai Shenyuan’s director, contacted us.
Interesting: Chinese respond to potential benefits strongly without self constraints: look at the college willing to changing transcripts just so they can boost school image by claiming how many of their students have been accepted by US colleges