kitchen table math, the sequel: rigged

Friday, September 9, 2011


Someone I know spoke last night to an admissions person at a highly selective college.

The admissions person said that highly selective colleges here in the U.S. have been admitting numerous students from China because their resumes are so strong. Spectacular scores, spectacular grades.

Then, when the students arrive at the highly selective colleges, their professors discover that they aren't prepared and can't do the work.

What these colleges are seeing, the admissions counselor said, is "systematic cheating." Those were his words.

Another thing: these highly selective colleges have been led to believe that the Chinese government is paying full fare. But no. The students have a bit of money from the Chinese government, but nothing close to what they need, and their parents can't afford to make up the difference.

So there they are, in America, enrolled in the most selective colleges in this country. They can't do the work, and they can't pay the tuition.
update: no change in ACT math scores


Catherine Johnson said...

I am now wondering about SAT math.

SAT math is far more difficult than it was when I took it as a kid, and the gap between Asian and white scores is huge.

A score of 700 is 77th percentile for "Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander" & 94th percentile for whites.

My questions:

* How many Chinese nationals are included in the "Asian" category for SAT?

* Do we see the same math gap on ACT?

Allison said...

I don't buy these schools are "highly selective" except in their own minds. that their hubris lets them be used by the PRC is not surprising.

The top ten schools in science and eng have known for decades now that the Chinese govt cheats at this like they do at everything else. for many years, the chinese grad students applying were equally weak. but their goals were different than the schools expected. the goal was to assimilate well enough to steal any ip and tech they could over the long haul, and get data to help the PRC's knowledge networks. private sector jobs, labs, startups, personal contacts--it was all wanted.

for at least a decade, random rural state schools have been taking in chinese students because it made them money. the PRC used these kids to learn which schools were which, how to target the application process, etc.

a big contributor to this madness is the visa system. we can't ix this without changing the way legal immigration here works.

ChemProf said...

I think the cheating by Chinese students has been known for a while. I know it has led to some oddness in the way grad schools use the Chemistry GRE, which always had low scores (Chemistry is a broad field, and there aren't a lot of students who score equally well in all the branches). A lot of places have a minimum cutoff for the Chem GRE, but ignore it beyond that because the Chinese students skew the percentile scores (since they have near perfect scores).

Any school that gets caught by it deserves what they get, but I have seen a push at less selective places to attract these international students. It never seems to be worth the effort, though.

Amy P said...

The graduate department I'm most familiar with approaches Chinese grad applicants with a lot of caution. Normally, writing samples would be really important, but anybody could have written the samples. (That's the case with US applicants, of course, but it's an especially acute problem with the Chinese applicants because the sample may totally misrepresent their ability to function in the English language.) The department I'm familiar with has gone to not taking Chinese applicants unless there is a Westerner who knows them in person and vouches for their abilities. That's kind of crude, but it's either that or not take them at all.

Crimson Wife said...

Cheating is a problem with Asian students- when my DH was a grad student, I was approached by one of his Korean classmates for a work-from-home job "editing" application essays. I was skeptical about just what this kind of "editing" would entail so I started asking questions. As I suspected, it went beyond normal editing to actually writing the essays for the clients. I tried to make my DH's classmate understand that this was unethical, but it all boils down to cultural differences between individualist Western ones and collectvist Asian ones.

Bonnie said...

This has been true at the graduate level for years. I taught for three years at an aspiring R1 school that mainly admitted students from China and India. They were horrible. Many of the Chinese students had no intention of staying in school, and would disappear within a few weeks to illegal jobs. The Indian students cheated continually. One of our deans was eventually arrested for taking bribes from Indian applicants. This was in the early 90's.

Bonnie said...

There is a good article in the Chronicle on this topic. The comments section is especially interesting. This is pretty much an open secret in higher ed

Amy P said...

"Many of the Chinese students had no intention of staying in school, and would disappear within a few weeks to illegal jobs."

I had a brief gig doing English tutoring for a Chinese graduate student from my husband's old department (the department was funding her English lessons). I can't remember what happened to her at the end (I think she may have just melted into the underbrush), but when I knew her, she was having a jolly time in the US. She quickly found a boyfriend (OK), but (much less excusably) was also was going to the National Gallery to paint (!). She didn't seem to be burning with passion for her actual academic subject. Her writing sample had been phenomenal, though.

On the other hand, one of my aunties (a community college instructor) boards several Asian students (from China, Hong Kong, etc.) at a time at her house. The idea is to help them acclimate to life in the US in a sheltered environment. Many of them study at the community college for a couple of years in the hope of transferring to a four year college. My aunt has had some very gratifying results from her alumni.