How a Chinese company bought access to admissions officers at top U.S. colleges

dipont-logoKudos to the four (4) Reuters reporters for their outstanding work on this investigative report.  Only when this type of unethical behavior sees the publication light of day and the proverbial shit hits the fan is there any action, in most cases.  While there are some Vietnamese companies that would love to have this kind of reach and influence, I don’t think any do…yet.

There are companies that are happy to write statements of purpose (SOPs) and “teacher” letters of recommendation for students whose goal is to gain admission to a highly selective institution, and are richly rewarded for doing so. It’s not that the young people in question are poor students, it’s that an “enhanced profile” may result in more scholarship funding.

no cheatingParents and students who work with these types of companies can be viewed as willing co-conspirators.  The former view this partnership in unethical conduct and the upfront costs associated with it (think 5-10-15k or much more) as an “investment” in their children’s future.  Ideally, the ROI is a generous scholarship package and, of course, bragging rights.

Does it work?  In most cases, yes.  Why?  Because US colleagues do not have enough time or resources to verify as part of the “trust but verify” process.  This explains the growing popularity of video interviews because, to a certain extent, seeing and hearing are believing.


P.S.:  Gotta love the name of the offending company. Kinda reminds me of the name of a certain famous family associated with my home state of Delaware.  Hint:  think gunpowder and chemicals.😉

“Homeland Security Wants To Shut Down South Bay University”

Kudos to the DHS!  This is what the US government should be doing, instead of creating faux universities (exhibit A:  University of Northern New Jersey) and entrapping people.  They have plenty of work on their hands with existing institutions, including those that are “officially accredited” (read nationally accredited) and unaccredited but authorized to issue I-20s.

cheating next exitCalifornia South Bay University (CSBU) is one rogue provider that knows the value of regional accreditation as the gold standard of institutional accreditation in the US.  Perhaps it’s a long-term goal or a dream but it’s certainly not yet a reality.  It added it to its website, even though it’s a bald-faced lie.  Go to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) database and do a search for CSBU.  Let me know what you find out.  This is the result I got:

Search Results: 0 institutions found for ‘california south bay university’
Please use alternative search criteria.



“Outdated Immigration Laws: Bad for Students, Worse for Local Economies”

It starts with the student visa process, which is one component of a broken immigration system.  At the end of the day, the only issues that really matter are: 1) ability to pay; and 2) whether or not the applicant is a terrorist.

immigration-reformThe first question in the holy trinity of the vetting process – are you a bona fide student? – has already been answered by the admitting institution.  (Recommendation:  Take unaccredited institutions out of the equation because “bona fide student” and “rogue provider” are a contradiction in terms.)

The third question – what are your post-graduation plans?, i.e., to return to your home country – should also be jettisoned.  Emigration is a personal decision and, Lord knows, the US needs a certain percentage of international students to remain for the long-term, if not forever.  With a median age of 38+ the population isn’t getting any younger, plus, there’s also a shortage of skilled workers in key fields.

NOTE:  Six (6) winners of Nobel Prizes affiliated with US universities are foreign born.  (See America’s Immigrant Laureates.  11.10.16, Inside Higher Ed)

Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.


NACAC Takes Step in the Right Direction

Admissions group calls on colleges to require recruiting agents to disclose their financial ties to those they are seeking to recruit.

d4c4zsvf_400x400_1I’m happy to see NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) moving in this direction.  Ultimately, of course, it’s up to institutions to hold their education agents to high standards using a multifaceted carrot/stick approach.  The good news is that most US higher education colleagues care.  The uncomfortable truth is that some do not.  The latter care more about student referrals than they do about business ethics or integrity.  For them it’s all about “showing me the students,” even if they have to wash their hands (or take a shower) after meeting with their less-than-stellar agents.

Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.


“Take responsibility for ensuring ethical recruitment”


Using education agents is fraught with risks, but those with a long-term vision realise that doing business ethically is better for business, so how do you choose wisely and ensure accountability?

Here’s my latest University World News piece, this time about ethical international student recruitment.  I wrote it in direct response to a July 2016 article entitled Internationalisation should be ethical and for all by Hans de Wit, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.  One of his proposed black/white solutions was, in effect, to throw the baby out with the bathwater, before quickly (and realistically) acknowledging that “This is not likely to happen.”

What is the solution?

It would be in the interests of governments, universities and students if the participation of commercial recruiters, for-profit pathway providers and other intermediate businesses was stopped.

Here’s the introduction to my article to whet your appetite (or not):

It has been argued, in University World News and elsewhere, that the way to address the problem of unethical student recruitment agencies is to ban them.  But are all education agents inherently bad?  No.  Are there serious issues and potential pitfalls?  Absolutely.  While I agree that education agents should follow ethical business practices, I disagree that the solution is not to use any of them.

You can see that there were different takes (and takeaways), depending upon the interests and goals of the entity doing the Tweeting.



Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.


The Agony of Choice

A Proliferation of Overseas Study Destinations for Vietnamese Students

The number of possible overseas study destinations is increasing for Vietnamese students, which is an encouraging trend for both them and their families. Below are the top 10 most expensive and inexpensive countries to study in, according to a 22.9.16 Independent article entitled Germany and Sweden named the cheapest places to attend university.

Many of these countries offer long-term work and even emigration opportunities, if so desired.  All of the top five host countries this year are among the most expensive countries to study in except China.  Together, they host about 110,000 young Vietnamese.  Keep in mind that there are plentiful scholarship and work opportunities for Japan-bound Vietnamese students.

  1. Japan
  2. USA
  3. Australia
  4. China
  5. Singapore

The top five countries are in bold red and other countries with significant numbers of Vietnamese students are in bold blue.  There are others not listed here that have identified Viet Nam as a strategic priority, including Ireland and the Netherlands.  More choices equals more competition for the top host countries.

Country Average tuition fee Average living cost Average annual total
USA £31,296 £14,403 £45,699
Australia £18,611 £12,654 £31,265
New Zealand £16,905 £12,006 £28,912
Canada £15,732 £8,268 £24,140
Hong Kong £12,626 £6,336 £18,963
United Kingdom £8,994 £9,233 £18,227
Singapore £11,882 £5,796 £17,678
Israel £2,555 £13,932 £16,487
Switzerland £1,152 £14,797 £15,949
Japan £6,111 £8,361 £14,471

Least expensive countries to study in

1 Germany* £331 £6,369 £6,701
2 Sweden* £13 £6,694 £6,707
3 South Africa £3,496 £3,452 £6,948
4 Finland* £88 £7,226 £7,313
5 Taiwan £2,498 £5,006 £7,503
6 Denmark £0 £8,193 £8,193
7 Austria £650 £7,651 £8,301
8 Belgium £741 £7,849 £8,590
9 Russia £4,665 £4,627 £9,292
10 Norway £110 £9,202 £9,313

Choosing Clients & Partners is a Two-Way Street: Quality Matters

Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.2-way-street

The company I work for, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company founded in 2009, with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), works exclusively with regionally accredited (RA) institutions of higher education in the US.  As far as I know, it’s the only company in Viet Nam, and indeed the world, that has this policy. (If you know of another, let me know!  A prize to the first person whose answer I’m able to confirm.)

Why?  Because quality and integrity are more important than money.  Since regional accreditation is the gold standard of institutional accreditation in the US, students and parents can be assured that minimum standards of quality have been met and maintained.  US higher education fair attendees can be assured that there are no “bad apples” in the ballroom.  US higher education colleagues who choose to work with the company can be assured of honor by association. Capstone has politely declined to work with quite a few schools because the company you keep and the standards you uphold take precedence over cash flow.

Nationally accredited (NA) institutions, while “officially accredited,” are not in the same academic league as their RA cousins.  In fact, in terms of quality and ethics, some of them comprise a veritable rogue’s gallery of schools, including those that are essentially visa mills.  Moreover, the majority of these schools do not inform students and parents that most RA institutions will not accept credits and credentials transferred from NA schools.  Why is that, I wonder?

gold-standardFor most educational consulting companies, it’s all about “showing me the money”, which means they’ll work with anyone who can afford to pay them, including rogue providers (unaccredited schools), in some cases.  Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.  For Capstone, it’s about quality first, which I find refreshing in the often murky and foul world of educational consulting.