The Industry of Higher Education

American Public Media’s Marketplace recently broadcast a two-part series of reports about the process that Chinese students often go through in hopes of studying in the USA, and the different parties that stand to profit from that process. From the first story which, aired on Wednesday:

[China’s rapid GDP growth is] creating a lot of wealth and all that new money means opportunities that, for years, a lot of Chinese could only dream of. Like — just for instance — sending your child to an American university. But getting into school there and getting into school here aren’t the same thing. Chinese high schoolers take one test for all the marbles. Here we’ve got the SATs, teacher recommendations, students essays, transcripts. So China’s now got a booming industry of college-placement companies that — for the right price — promise to secure a spot in an American school.

Benefitting from the desire for a US diploma are the many private agencies in China like Shanghai Shenyuan, described below:

Here’s how the agency works: A student comes to Shanghai Shenyuan for help getting into a U.S. school. If Shenyuan succeeds, the agency collects — usually from the parents — the equivalent of $6,000. Both former employees say this put pressure on them to make absolutely sure that students were admitted to a U.S. college, even if they didn’t have the grades to get in.

The follow up report explains that agencies like Shanghai Shenyuan aren’t the only ones cleaning up on the deal:

Chinese parents aren’t the only ones paying the agencies. American universities often pay them commissions for the students they send here. The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point runs an English as a Second Language program. The program paid Shanghai Shenyuan about $700 for Eldon. Some schools pay much more. After he passed a few E.S.L. courses, he enrolled in the university.

[…]Brad Van Den Elzen is Director of the International Students and Scholars Office at U.W. Stevens Point. He says foreign students bring diversity to the campus. They also bring money. And with states gutting education budgets, universities need new sources of revenue.

Listen to or read both of the stories in their entirety at APM’s Marketplace. Also see prior CDT coverage of the challenges that Chinese students often face while in the US.


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