Rumors about a major Chinese education company indicate that money can certainly buy things like influence and a higher likelihood of being accepted at top U.S. universities.
Former employees of the Shanghai-based Dipont Education Management Group have stepped forward with claims that the company has been involved in application fraud. The company has allegedly helped their student clients gain admission to top U.S. colleges by altering recommendation letters, writing application essays for students and modifying high school transcripts to cover up poor grades.
According to Reuters, Dipont has established relationships with about 20 U.S. colleges, listing Vanderbilt University, Wellesley College, and the University of Virginia among them.
For the past three summers, admissions officers from these institutions have made visits to China to personally advise students in the Dipont program about the American application process. They were reportedly given a number of reward perks in exchange for their counsel including business-class airfare, or economy-class travel plus a cash “honorarium.”
In 2015 and 2016, each attendee was given a payment of $4,500 in cash, typically with $100 bills. Admissions officers from Vanderbilt University, Pomona College, Wellesley College, Indiana University and the University of California, Berkeley have confirmed accepting plane tickets for attending these workshops.
Benzon Zhang, Dipont’s founder and chief executive, denies these allegations and said during an interview that “many of the schools, students and overseas colleges consider us one of the most ethical companies in China.” Zhang said he has not been notified of a case of application fraud and emphasized that the company has strict guidelines for employees.
“If there had been such a case, it had not been reported to me. But I guarantee you, if such a complaint comes to my attention, I will deal with it with severity. One or two aberrant employees who violate the rules do not indicate company-wide fraud.”
A number of similar education companies are eager to cash in on the market of Chinese students who want to study in the U.S. Altbach, head of the Boston College higher-education research center, finds it troubling that some companies would go to such extents to help their clients earn admission.
“I think getting in bed with the company is problematic no matter how they’re being paid because this company is basically a recruitment agency on steroids.”