Several Chinese students from the University of Iowa are currently under investigation for alleged organized cheating.
The state university, one of the largest in the Midwest, announced it was looking into 30 students who are suspected of using tutoring service companies to cheat their way through college applications, coursework and exams. According to an investigative report by Reuters, some of the sources claimed that the number of students involved may be a lot higher.
The students stand accused of cheating their way through at least three online courses. Three students have reportedly admitted to paying Chinese-tutoring firms to take exams for them.
Some of the students were caught after a proctoring services company, ProctorU, reportedly discovered that other people take their online exams for them.
Utilizing the cameras mounted on the exam computers, ProctorU was able to check the faces of the exam takers against the identification photos of the legitimate students. The proctoring company alerted the university after noticing the irregularities.
Suspects may be expelled from the school if found guilty of the act. Under U.S. immigration law, expulsion from the school also means possible deportation for those using student visas.
There are cheating rings that write college application essays, fake letters of recommendation, and who recommend obtaining doctored school transcripts. Some outfits extend their services well beyond gaining admission, doing entire coursework for $1,000 per course. Among those implicated in Reuter’s report are Chinese firms UI International Student Services, Fanyi Creation Translation and Transcend.
In 2015, a former employee of Chinese firm Transcend exposed his firm’s fraudulent practices by sending emails to more than a hundred U.S. colleges detailing the supposed doctored college applications of 40 students. This led to the discovery of several Chinese students who were accepted because of fake documents and doctored admission essays.
These unscrupulous companies have been aggressive in persuading Chinese students not only in Iowa but also to other universities. Students from the University of Washington, the University of Alabama and Penn State University have received emails promoting the cheating services with a money-back guarantee from the anonymous firms.
Since a third of the 761,000 foreign college students in the U.S. are Chinese, these firms are tapping into a huge market by feeding off the growing number of Chinese who choose to study in the U.S. and colleges’ desire to profit from foreign students who are bound to pay full tuition.
Now educators believe the issue has put the credibility of foreign students in general into question.
“The reality is for international students, particularly in Asia, there’s a worry about whether the application is authentic, whether the essay is authentic, whether the person who shows up at your door is the same person who applied,” said Joyce E. Smith, chief executive of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.