Study abroad: buyer beware

By Vino Li

As more and more students choose to study overseas, there are plenty of study-abroad agencies.

It has been more than 20 years since the agencies appeared. And there are over 600 study-abroad agencies in China. These agencies have played an important role in promoting the development of education in China. However, due to the lack of effective legal constraints and industry self-discipline, some agencies have been accused of deceptive practices.

In China, nearly 96 percent of students who want to study abroad use a study-abroad agency for help.

Wenjing Wang, 31, a teacher working at the Oriental School in Beijing since 2010, said: “It’s a really good thing to see more and more students want to study abroad. They want to see the outside world and want better education. In general, they pay us, then we will collect the student’s information and appoint a teacher to be in charge. We will help with choosing a suitable school and editing the application.”

This kind of service does bring a lot convenience to students. According to the survey from National Bureau of Statistics, there were 459,800 people who studied overseas in 2014. And the number has been increasing every year.

Shan Cui, a principal of the Oriental School for study abroad, claimed that most of the students paid about $3,000. If someone wants to get better service, he or she can pay over $14,000.

As more study-abroad agencies found huge profits and decided to help more people, various problems happened.

Jason He, 23, a graduate student at Jinan University, said that he feels an agency fooled him. Jason said: “I chose Jiexun Study-Abroad Agency because I took part in the introductory on our campus. I thought it’s reliable. However, the teacher told me that I cannot go to the school where I want to go because I didn’t have a grade from The International English Language Testing System. Then I asked the teacher why he didn’t tell me before, but he said he had told me. He lied to me. He forgot to tell me that I should have the grade, which was very important to the school I want to study at. So I was really angry. Now I must put off my plan.”

Eric Wang, a teacher at Jiexun, said that they just help students to choose a school and submit their applications. “Students should know what exams they have to pass. They cannot rely everything on us.” Wang said.

Also, about 30 percent of students think they could go to a good school with the help of these agencies if they have enough money. Kun Zhang, a junior student from South China Normal University, said: “I consulted study-abroad agencies. Some of them told me that I could go to a good school if I let them help me with my materials. They can change some grades when they submit my materials. They also said these fake materials would not be found.”

Lei Lou, a veteran educator, said: “In our country, there are so many evil-minded intermediaries. They only aim to get more money but do not care about students at all. This intermediary not only is harmful to the majority of students studying abroad. Many European countries don’t believe Chinese students’ transcripts anymore.”

Lou also indicated that students and parents rely on these agencies too much. They don’t do some research and know more information about study abroad by themselves, which means they are in danger about being cheated.

“Study abroad is a good thing to people, but we should be very cautious about it. Evil-minded intermediaries not only needs laws to limit them, but students also need to do the research by themselves.” Lou added.

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