In a recent article in The Boston Globe the spotlight was back on China and the “wave of admissions fraud striking U.S. schools.” The issue of fraudulent transcripts from China is not new to those of us involved in the evaluation of international academic credentials. I still remember one of my colleagues, a senior evaluator at ACEI, who had traveled to Beijing several years ago and had first hand eye witness experience with fraud. She had visited a bookstore in Beijing and when she used its back door to exist into the alley she had come face to face with a vendor who had on display a wide range of blank diplomas and transcripts bearing the names of known Chinese universities. For a fee, a person could purchase a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or a Doctorate, in a major of their choosing from Beijing University or Shanghai University and present said document to prospective employer or unsuspecting college admissions officer overseas. I can still hear how flabbergasted my colleague was from the tone of her email. She couldn’t believe her eyes that this was happening in public and in broad daylight.
When it comes to college admission, falsifications of documents from China covers everything that plays a part in the U.S. institution’s decision process, starting with paying someone else to complete the application and essay, to fraudulent letters of recommendation, financial statements, passports, SAT and English language proficiency test scores, to academic transcripts and diplomas/degrees. It is, therefore, unfortunate and an occupational hazard but we cannot not speak of Chinese educational credentials without having our dander up and be suspicious of their authenticity.
When it comes to academic documents, especially those from China, it is more of a case of guilty before proven innocent. At the moment, the one approach most of us involved in credential evaluations, at least those of us who work for companies that are approved and endorsed by the Association of International Credential Evaluators, require our Chinese students to first have their academic documents verified by either one of the following 2 non-governmental Ministry of Education designated entities in China: China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) and China Higher Education Students Information and Career Center (CHESICC). This step in our evaluation process has proven very effective. (Just to be sure, in case you’re wondering, we don’t receive any fees or royalties from these entities.) Those students who have nothing to hide, contact either one of these entities, depending on the type of verification required and request to have their verified academic documents sent directly to our company. And then there are those who put up a big fuss, claiming it to be an inconvenience and costly (yes, the CDGDC and CHESICC do charge the student a fee for the verification). The bigger fuss they make, the more insistent we are in the verification. If there is no problem with their documents, then obtaining the verification should be a piece of cake.
We recently had an applicant from China who submitted photocopies (not original or official) of his academic transcripts and refused to go through the CDGDC for the verification. As a rule, we do not accept just photocopies of academic documents for evaluation from anyone and anywhere. This individual was incredulous and did not want to have his documents verified and even accused us of being ‘unethical,’ which is an interesting twist on using reverse psychology to win a point.
According to the article in The Boston Globe: “Justice Department officials (in the U.S.) in May (2015) charged 15 Chinese, including a Northeastern University student, in a testing scheme in which some students paid others as much as $6,000 each to take their SAT and English proficiency tests. Students in China ordered fake passports and sent them to co-conspirators in Pennsylvania, who took their exams.” The article continues: “More than 8,000 Chinese students were expelled from US universities in 2014, according to a report by WholeRen Education, a Pittsburg-based education consultancy). Around 80 percent of the cases involved poor grades or cheating.”
Bottom line is, given that the U.S. continues to be the preferred destination for Chinese students for study, cheating on their U.S. college applications and transcripts will prevail. U.S. schools need not be blinded by full-paying international students, especially from China to boost their budgets. If all U.S. schools implement a strict verification policy, they not only benefit from capitalizing on the international student but also enjoy the peace of mind that their admission decision was based on bona fide and legitimate documents.
The Frustrated Evaluator