What are Chinese students pleading guilty in US courts for?
US law enforcement authorities say there is a growing fraud perpetuated highly organized rings of college-admission-exams imposters in the US. Source: Shutterstock

Their crime? Using impostors to gain admission into US universities.

The latest to plead guilty to this is Pennsylvania State University student Leyi Huang, Reuters reported. She pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding the United States, court records show.

Huang had failed to achieve the minimum score to attend Penn State and had resorted to paying a test taker to take the TOEFL, the English-language exam used to assess foreign applicants. Her broker had instructed her to mail her Chinese passport to a Massachusetts address.

Her passport was then used by one Yue Wang, a Chinese student at Hult International Business School in Cambridge, to sit the TOEFL on Huang’s and at least two other female Chinese applicants’ behalf, prosecutors said.

This, in effect, is an act of fraud against the United States as it impeded the US Department of Homeland Security in its administration of a programme that sets standards for an international student to obtain a visa. Both Wang, Huang and two other women were arrested last May.

At the Boston court, Huang faced five years in prison, but US District Judge Dennis Saylor sentenced the 21-year-old to time served after she agreed to be deported, according to court papers.

Huang’s case is just part of growing fraud perpetuated highly organized rings of college-admission-exams imposters in the US according to American law enforcement authorities. The Atlantic explained how these sophisticated scams work: “In these schemes, brokers in China are using computer-enhanced photography to create nearly undetectable fake passports for schemes that allow imposters to take a range of tests—including the SAT, the GRE, and the TOEFL for students across the globe.

Terry Crawford, the co-founder of Initial View, a video interviewing service to help colleges vet international candidates said: “Hiring test-taking proxies has been a widespread practice in China for a long time”.

“With so many Chinese students wanting to study in the US, it’s natural that these fraudulent practices are spreading here, where security is comparatively low.”

In January, another Chinese student at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to charges of using a fake passport and bogus visa to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Reuters reported.

The rise of the ‘shadow scholars’. Source: Bulkan Evcimen on Unsplash

Chinese students’ use of dubious sources to enter and maintain grades have long been a thorny issue with US universities, which are increasingly reliant on the higher fees they pay as international students to offset cuts to their funds.

As their numbers studying in the US continue to rise- they are the largest group of international students in the US – companies offering to complete assignments and tests on behalf of students have multiplied too. An explosive report by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2010 included the confession of an anonymous author to having written more than 5000 pages of scholarly work per year on behalf of university students.

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