For getting caught cheating in a university exam, one would assume that expulsion would form the most severe punishment, but in the United States, this could lead to deportation or even a long prison sentence.
Three Chinese students ensnared in an entrance exam scam learned this the hard way as they have now landed in court for the serious offence.
A Reuters report cited a federal court in Boston papers as saying the three women were charged with conspiring to defraud the US
Xiaomeng Cheng, who prosecutors said gained admission to Arizona State University through the exam scam, pleaded guilty to the charges and is likely to be deported.
Further plea hearings over the next three weeks are set for Shikun Zhang, who was at Northeastern University in Boston, and Yue Wang, 24, who according to prosecutors was paid to take exams for Zhang and Cheng while at Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The three reportedly cheated on their TOEFL exams, the English-language exam widely used to assess foreign applicants. The test is recognised by more than 9,000 colleges, universities, and agencies in more than 130 countries.
— Interactive English (@interactiveeng) August 31, 2017
Prosecutors said Wang earned nearly US$7,000 taking the test in 2015 and 2016 for Zhang, Cheng and another Chinese woman, Leyi Huang, after they failed to meet their respective universities’ minimum scores.
After they were admitted, the three were issued student visas by the US State Department. The four women subsequently were charged and arrested in May.
While each of the women faced up to five years in prison, prosecutors have agreed to recommend all three be sentenced to time served in exchange for their agreement to be deported.
That process got underway immediately for Cheng, 20, who will spend two days at an immigration detention facility before flying to China on Friday. The hoodie-clad woman even brought a suitcase to court.
Cheng’s lawyer Paul Davenport said in court she had good grades while at Arizona State and will now return “to her home country of China in disgrace and more importantly to the disapproval of her father, who I’ve met.”
Amid an increasingly affluent population, more Chinese students have been enrolling in US colleges and universities, attracted by the prospect of a prestigious American education and good jobs.
Their numbers grew by nine percent to 135,629 students in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the Institute of International Education.
Assistant US Attorney Nicholas Soivilien in court said Huang, who was admitted to Penn State University, had declined a similar plea deal. Her lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Reuters