‘It’s too easy…’

Paying agents a per-student commission is illegal under U.S. law when recruiting students eligible for federal aid—that is, most domestic applicants. But paying commissioned agents isn’t illegal when recruiting foreigners who can’t get federal aid.

So more schools like Wichita State are relying on such agents, saying the intermediaries are the most practical way to woo overseas youths without the cost of sending staff around the world. No one officially counts how many U.S. campuses pay such agents, most of whom operate abroad, but experts estimate at least a quarter do so.

Eric Xiao, director of Tiandao’s college-application business, says agencies often ghostwrite student essays but Tiandao discourages students from engaging in such activities or other falsification. U.S. students also get outside help, he says. “It’s a question of the extent,” he says. “OK, in China, it might be a little more.”

Wichita State contacts high schools when there are document-authenticity concerns and sometimes “spit tests” signatures, wetting them to see if they smear (ink does, laser-printed signatures don’t), or uses black lights to check transcripts for doctoring.

Wichita State has stopped requiring essays of any applicant, Mr. Altum says, because “it’s too easy to have someone write an essay on your behalf.”

-Te-Ping Chen and Melissa Korn ‘American colleges pay agents to woo foreigners, despite fraud riskThe Wall Street Journal


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