DHS issues subpoenas investigating Chinese identity fraud ring funneling fake students to American universities

One of the dirty little secrets of American higher education is the growing financial dependence of many campuses on vast sums of tuition money paid by foreign students.  With the cohort of Americans reaching college age declining, and with tuition having grown at a rate of three times inflation for decades, pricing out many families, colleges and universities need warm bodies with ample cash to pay for all those administrators.  Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit calls this the "higher education bubble," which threatens the financial viability of a huge swath of campuses.

Overseas students, who usually pay full tuition, not discounted with scholarships or, with public colleges, in-state tuition that is as little as one quarter or less of the amount paid by foreigners, have stepped up to fill the coffers at many institutions of higher education.  The needs are mutual: foreigners want a visa to stay here for years, and colleges and universities need the money they bring.  To use business jargon, overseas students are a "cash cow" for campuses all over the U.S.

And the biggest source of rich students wanting a visa to enter the USA currently is China, with millions of families now multi-millionaires, anxious to establish an offspring as a legal resident of a country like the U.S., Canada, or Australia, where pollution, corruption, and tyranny are not as odious as at home.  Once a foothold is established, they can maneuver to obtain longer-term residency and maybe bring over family members, too.

But one problem is the difficulty of acquiring English language facility and academic capabilities sufficient to meet even minimal admission requirements.  That has created a market for operations like this one, uncovered by NBC 7 San Diego:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating an alleged identity theft ring run out of a home in Rancho Penasquitos.

A federal search warrant obtained by NBC 7 shows the Chinese National living there was paid thousands of dollars to get Chinese students admitted into California Universities.

According to the search warrant filed in federal court Wednesday, the subject of the investigation helped Chinese students get into the U.S. illegally and enroll into state schools by having imposters with fake ID's take entrance exams for them.

There are quite a few "colleges" that seem to specialize in "educating" foreign students in their native languages and vouching for student visas.  But the big prize for status-conscious families is admission to a recognized campus, a brand name that might be even known to family, neighbors, and business associates, and whose degree might actually mean something.  Thus:

The University of California, Irvine, Los Angeles, and Riverside are mentioned in the search warrant that accepted applications or enrolled foreign students who used "Mayen International or Mayen Global services," according to the warrant.

This particular operation was run out of a bedroom of a suburban San Diego home and was quite lucrative for the alleged scammers:

The search warrant indicates for the last three years, the sole owner and operator of Mayen was paid as much as "$25,000 per student to have an imposter take the SAT college entrance exam, the Test For English as a Foreign Language exam, and complete college applications."  The imposters also allegedly used "fraudulent Chinese passports to gain access to exams."

I strongly suspect that this operation was one of many.  Because many campuses desperately need lucrative full-tuition students, they do not have a big financial incentive to look too closely at applicants or overseas students.  If a genuine large-scale crackdown is effectuated, it would seriously harm one of the major pillars of the Democrats' base: higher education.  That's perhaps why this is taking place under the Trump administration.

One of the dirty little secrets of American higher education is the growing financial dependence of many campuses on vast sums of tuition money paid by foreign students.  With the cohort of Americans reaching college age declining, and with tuition having grown at a rate of three times inflation for decades, pricing out many families, colleges and universities need warm bodies with ample cash to pay for all those administrators.  Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit calls this the "higher education bubble," which threatens the financial viability of a huge swath of campuses.

Overseas students, who usually pay full tuition, not discounted with scholarships or, with public colleges, in-state tuition that is as little as one quarter or less of the amount paid by foreigners, have stepped up to fill the coffers at many institutions of higher education.  The needs are mutual: foreigners want a visa to stay here for years, and colleges and universities need the money they bring.  To use business jargon, overseas students are a "cash cow" for campuses all over the U.S.

And the biggest source of rich students wanting a visa to enter the USA currently is China, with millions of families now multi-millionaires, anxious to establish an offspring as a legal resident of a country like the U.S., Canada, or Australia, where pollution, corruption, and tyranny are not as odious as at home.  Once a foothold is established, they can maneuver to obtain longer-term residency and maybe bring over family members, too.

But one problem is the difficulty of acquiring English language facility and academic capabilities sufficient to meet even minimal admission requirements.  That has created a market for operations like this one, uncovered by NBC 7 San Diego:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating an alleged identity theft ring run out of a home in Rancho Penasquitos.

A federal search warrant obtained by NBC 7 shows the Chinese National living there was paid thousands of dollars to get Chinese students admitted into California Universities.

According to the search warrant filed in federal court Wednesday, the subject of the investigation helped Chinese students get into the U.S. illegally and enroll into state schools by having imposters with fake ID's take entrance exams for them.

There are quite a few "colleges" that seem to specialize in "educating" foreign students in their native languages and vouching for student visas.  But the big prize for status-conscious families is admission to a recognized campus, a brand name that might be even known to family, neighbors, and business associates, and whose degree might actually mean something.  Thus:

The University of California, Irvine, Los Angeles, and Riverside are mentioned in the search warrant that accepted applications or enrolled foreign students who used "Mayen International or Mayen Global services," according to the warrant.

This particular operation was run out of a bedroom of a suburban San Diego home and was quite lucrative for the alleged scammers:

The search warrant indicates for the last three years, the sole owner and operator of Mayen was paid as much as "$25,000 per student to have an imposter take the SAT college entrance exam, the Test For English as a Foreign Language exam, and complete college applications."  The imposters also allegedly used "fraudulent Chinese passports to gain access to exams."

I strongly suspect that this operation was one of many.  Because many campuses desperately need lucrative full-tuition students, they do not have a big financial incentive to look too closely at applicants or overseas students.  If a genuine large-scale crackdown is effectuated, it would seriously harm one of the major pillars of the Democrats' base: higher education.  That's perhaps why this is taking place under the Trump administration.