Chinese Embassy probe into US degrees scandal
THE Chinese Embassy in the United States has sent an investigation team to an American university revealed as a diploma mill for foreign students, most of whom were Chinese, officials said yesterday.
The move came after claims that hundreds of students, mostly from China, at Dickinson State University in North Dakota were given degrees they hadn't earned.
The investigation follows the resignation of the university president and the suicide of its dean of education, business and applied sciences.
Douglas LaPlante, 59, was found dead in a park near the campus of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Friday afternoon, police said.
An audit by North Dakota education authorities made public last Friday revealed that lax record keeping and oversight resulted in hundreds of degrees being awarded to students who hadn't finished their course work.
Others were enrolled who couldn't speak English or hadn't achieved the standard normally required for admission.
Of 410 foreign students who had received four-year degrees since 2003 - most of them in the past four years - 400 didn't fulfill all the graduation requirements, the audit report said. About 95 percent of the students in the degree program were Chinese, it said. The rest were Russian.
"The embassy will fight for the welfare of Chinese students," an official with the embassy told Xinhua news agency yesterday.
D.C. Coston, the university's new president, told a press conference: "We will be telling (the affected students) that their records do not indicate they sufficiently completed the requirements, while the university stands ready to work with them individually to figure out what might be necessary for them to reach a point of completion."
North Dakota education officials have decided to send some 21 of 27 newly enrolled Chinese students at the university back to China as they "could not speak English at the required competency level."
Dickinson State's program typically required students to begin coursework at universities in their home countries, spend a year studying in North Dakota and then return to their home schools to finish their degrees.
In determining foreign students' fluency in English, the university ignored two English proficiency tests considered good measures in favor of one that was not.
Many students did not have required documents such as English proficiency tests and bank statements, and some apparently fabricated course transcripts and Chinese university stamps that university officials accepted.
Founded as a teachers' training college, Dickinson State is in rural southwestern North Dakota's oil-producing region.
In the past five years, the school's autumn enrolment has dropped from 2,670 students to under 2,300. Some of the shortfall was filled by students from China, which has been the leading exporter of college students to the United States.
During the 2010-11 academic year, about 157,600 Chinese students were studying in the US, an increase of almost 24 percent from the previous year. The number of Chinese students in the US has risen by at least 19.8 percent in each of the past four years.