How American Colleges Can Better Serve Chinese Applicants

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education looks at the very flawed process by which Chinese students apply to and get accepted at American universities, and offers suggestions for how the system could be improved to benefit both sides:

I contacted about 30 American institutions to ask them about problems they might be having with Chinese students’ applications. To my surprise, only one person agreed to an interview. She said her office was updating its policy on fraud specifically because of problems with Chinese students: Professors had complained about their ability to participate in class. She said admissions officers take pains to check English ability through e-mail exchanges. When I asked if she could confirm the identity of the sender, she abruptly discontinued our correspondence. It is common knowledge in China that agents register e-mail accounts on clients’ behalf and control all communications.

Agents have earned a bad reputation among some people in American higher education—but what of the reputation of American admissions officials in the eyes of Chinese agents? I once attended a lecture in which an agent mocked the recruiting methods of some universities in the Chinese market. Those Americans are seen as culturally inept and unwilling to provide substantive oversight, even though they tout the integrity of their systems.

“You’ve got [American] schools admitting people quite literally to graduate schools who only have a high-school diploma, because they misunderstood what the credential represented. And you have people with degrees who are being rejected because they don’t understand that their degree is in fact comparable to a U.S. bachelor’s degree,” said Dale Gough, director of International Education Services at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Gough said that the majority of U.S. institutions do not have the training or resources to evaluate foreign credentials, and that standards vary greatly among independent providers. The best option perhaps is the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center, which recently signed cooperative agreements with both the registrars’ association and EducationUSA.


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