Rich Chinese parents also caught up in college admissions scandal

By LIA ZHU | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-09 07:39
Protesters gather as actress Lori Loughlin leaves a court in Boston on April 3 after appearing on charges related to the college admissions scandal. PAUL MAROTTA/GETTY IMAGES

Acting as a middleman for donations is barred by the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the industry's dominant trade group.

Venturini said it takes years to build up a donor relationship with a school. "Attempting to donate a huge amount of money for a school that your teen just happened to be applying to would be looked upon as suspicious to say the least," she said.

In response to the recent bribery scandal, California Assembly member Evan Low has introduced a bill to "restore integrity to college admissions processes".

Of the 11 schools implicated in the scandal, five are in California. Currently, the practices of college consultants in the US are unregulated and membership of industry associations such as the IECA is voluntary.

The bill requires college consultants who receive $5,000 or more per year for their services to register with the Secretary of State. As part of the bill's provisions, the College Consulting Advisory Task Force aims to develop best practices and put forward recommendations to better regulate the field of college consulting.

Luxury status symbol

US higher education institutions have been attracting a growing number of international students, with China the largest contributor.

More than 363,000 Chinese students were enrolled in US colleges and universities in the 2017-18 academic year, accounting for about one-third of the total international student population in the country, according to a report by the Institute of International Education in New York.

Many Chinese families are familiar with leading US colleges because they are heavily advertised.

"Going to a highly prestigious US college is a luxury status symbol in China. They (parents) see the US college system as the best in the world," Venturini said. "These are the schools they want their kids to attend so they can network and make future contacts among students of their own economic and social class."

It's all about applying the "finishing touch" for a student, and there is also the prestige of being able to college name-drop as graduates climb academic, economic and social ladders, she said.

Venturini is writing a book on how Chinese parents navigate the US education system. She said parents in China and other Asian countries place high value on education and will pay a fortune to make their children stand out among highly prestigious schools.

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