By Joe Guzzardi
September 8, 2016
Last year, United States prosecutors filed criminal charges against 15 Chinese nationals who allegedly perpetrated an elaborate scheme wherein impostors living near Pittsburgh took college entrance examinations using other students’ identities. One student pleaded guilty to organizing the scam, and admitted that the Chinese paid up to $6,000 to have others take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the Graduate Record Examination and the Test of English as a Foreign Language.
According to the federal grand jury indictment that handed down 35 counts, the 15 defendants are accused of providing counterfeit passports, sneaking into testing centers, registering under other names, and taking the tests. Evidence indicates that the conspiracy dates back to 2011.
The 2015 story has resurfaced because Associated Press reported from China and Macau that The College Board abruptly cancelled SAT examinations at 45 testing centers this weekend. Administrators feared that the exam had been widely distributed, and read in advance by hundreds of students. An earlier AP story called cheating in China “rampant.”
Investigators are trying to determine how many Chinese nationals may already be enrolled in U.S. universities under fraudulent circumstances. According to the Institute of International Education, China is the leading sender of international students. During the 2015 academic year, China sent more than 300,000 students to U.S. campuses, 31 percent of the 975,000 total, and an 11 percent increase over the previous year.
When foreign nationals commit academic fraud, they’re also guilty of immigration fraud. Some of the defendants in the ongoing case had already been admitted to universities based on their test scores, and qualified for the F-1 visa. Homeland Security Investigations’ Special Agent John Kelleghan vowed to work with his federal law enforcement partners “to seek out those committing transnational crimes and bring them to justice…for cheating their way through our nation’s immigration system.” District of Western Pennsylvania U.S. attorney David J. Hickton added that fraudulently obtained college admission means the visa was also deceitfully secured.
The F visa, among other visa categories, has recently been the topic of several congressional hearings. This month, DHS admitted that it has no idea where 500,000 visa overstays are, and that it has no intention to pursue them. Since the F visa has no numerical cap, thousands more students pour into the country every year, a lucrative deal for colleges and universities since international students pay higher out of state tuition than the prevailing in-state fees. In some cases, preference for international students has reached indefensible levels. In 2013, California State University directed some of its departments not to accept in-state applicants it its graduate programs.
America’s high school seniors are preparing to send their applications to the colleges of their choice. In addition to having to vie with their qualified peers for a fixed number of incoming freshman seats, they’ve suddenly been thrust into an intense international competition. Unluckily for college-bound Americans, overseas students are more attractive to universities because they produce more income. When colleges accept international students based on their sham test scores, as some schools may already have, American kids are put at a further disadvantage, and could ultimately be denied entry into the college of their choice.
Tighter oversight of F visa issuance, capping the number of those visas awarded, and DHS monitoring overstays would be welcome steps, but despite blatant fraud, unfortunately aren’t on this year’s congressional agenda.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]