Published: 31st August 2019
Should we bribe for college admissions? Numerous cases of students cheating the system raise concern
Earlier in 2019, five California residents were arrested on charges of helping more than 40 Chinese nationals obtain student visas by taking their English tests for them
An evil soul producing holy witness, Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;
A goodly apple rotten at the heart; O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath
— William Shakespeare
Shakespeare, in the above quote, could not have been talking about corruption in education, although Oxford University started functioning long before his time. Over the last several decades, universities have mushroomed — even in the private sector — after Dr TMA Pai (1898-1978) launched self-financing educational institutions based on capitation fees, starting with the Kasturba Medical College (KMC) at Manipal in 1953. Since then, many have imitated this model to establish medical, engineering and nursing colleges — often sans Pai’s altruistic motives and actions. Self-financing educational institutions have, in short, become money-minting machines.
Even then, admission to such colleges isn’t easy, with many agents vitiating the scene. The admission season is like an ‘auction season’, with many agents, both genuine and fake, making a killing. There is a founder and the head of a great educational conglomerate who, during the admissions season, leaves for Europe or the US and becomes incommunicado to his influence-peddling friends and ‘babus’. The action may not be altruistic. If he is in the station and reachable, he may succumb to his friends and lose the revenue meant for himself. If he leaves it to his minions, they will collect the ‘moola’ for him.
But Indians do not have a monopoly of admission rackets as reflected in the following two instances. In the USA, the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal arose over a criminal conspiracy to influence undergraduate admissions decisions at several top American universities. The investigation and related charges were made public on March 12, 2019, by United States federal prosecutors. At least 51 people are alleged to have been part of the conspiracy, and many have pleaded guilty. Thirty-three parents of college applicants are accused of paying more than $25 million between 2011 and 2018 to William Rick Singer, the organiser of the scheme, who used part of the money to fraudulently inflate the entrance exam test scores and bribe college officials. He created a ‘side door’ to let students in, as opposed to the ‘front door’ and ‘back door’. There is yet another case which is summarised below.
There have been numerous reported cases of students caught cheating the system. Earlier in 2019, five California residents were arrested on charges of helping more than 40 Chinese nationals obtain student visas by taking their English tests for them, using fake passports in the process. The scheme was allegedly masterminded by 23-year-old Liu Cai, an international student at the University of California. Access to the ‘elite’ American education is big business in China.