Students Scammed Out of Top College Spots

Deirdre Reilly, LifeZette, April 5, 2016

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Harvard just announced its most competitive admissions year ever. The Ivy League school granted acceptance to a mere 2,037 students out of an applicant pool of 39,041–for a 5.2 percent acceptance rate.

Columbia had a 6 percent acceptance rate this year–Yale, a 6.3 acceptance rate.

Now, American students with their eyes on the Ivys have yet another obstacle to face. Chinese students outside this country clamoring to get into a U.S. institution are hiring scammers, known as gunmen, to take tests such as the SAT, the GRE (the graduate school admissions test), and the English proficiency exam.

Gunmen pose as Chinese students who are either not proficient in the English language, not smart enough to score well on collegiate-level qualifying exams, or both–and help earn their clients those all-important acceptance letters.

Jasmine Huang (not her real name) was asked by someone she knew in China to be a gunman. She is currently studying at Harvard University on an F1 visa.

“I was very disappointed in this person when they asked me,” Huang told LifeZette. “He called and approached me, asking if I would take a test for a kid to allow him to get into college. I think he [the broker] has done this a few times. I didn’t do it, of course. Recently I talked to him, and he’s not doing as much–he said it’s getting harder.”

She suspects that those who monitor the test locations are also in on the scam.

“If I had participated, I would have taken the ID I was given, and gone to the test,” said Huang. “And although the person checking IDs would probably know it wasn’t actually me, he had probably talked to the broker, and together they arranged for me to take the test.”

Such ill-gotten gains cost a pretty penny.

“It can cost as much as $10,000 to hire someone to fraudulently take a test for an applicant,” said Huang. “And if the score the person wants does not happen, they don’t pay.”

{snip} Companies such as InitialView and Vericant help colleges such as Stanford, Georgia Tech, N.Y.U., Duke, and Columbia vet overseas applicants and verify their identities.

“Hiring test-taking proxies has been a widespread practice in China for a long time,” Terry Crawford, who runs InitialView, told The Hechinger Report. “With so many Chinese students wanting to study in the U.S., it’s natural that these fraudulent practices are spreading here, where security is comparatively low.”

Last year, 15 former and current U.S. college students originally from China were arrested in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and pled guilty to attempting to scam the applications system. They arranged test-takers for friends or took the tests for others. Most of them will be deported.

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American colleges and universities were home to over 300,000 Chinese students last year, according to the Institute of International Education–an almost 11 percent increase from the year before. {snip}

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