For the past three summers, Dipont Education Company in China, which focuses on providing advice, support, and services to Chinese students studying overseas, offered cash incentives to admissions officers in exchange for the officers speaking to students about the college application process in the United States.
According to Dipont's website, the company strives “to bridge the gap in practice and understanding between Chinese high schools and overseas universities.” According to a Reuters article published on Oct. 14, each July, hundreds of Chinese students pay Dipont to participate in eight-day workshops during which they hear U.S. admissions officers discuss what schools seek in applications, learn to write an effective personal essay, and sometimes secure the opportunity to interview with admissions officers.
Dipont paid airfare for admissions officers attending the program, and some officers have also received cash honorariums, or payments for services, according to Reuters.
Pomona College Dean of Admissions Seth Allen wrote in an email to TSL that he accepted airfare last summer from Dipont, which he said is a standard practice in the U.S. when a program is educational.
“Pomona did not use the program to recruit students,” he wrote. “However, it was quite helpful to spend time with students from China learning how they viewed the components of the admissions process to U.S. colleges and universities.”
According to Allen, the Dipont program is not a recruitment program, “but an educational program with a faculty composed of U.S. high school guidance counselors and U.S. college admissions officers.”
Harvey Mudd Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid Thyra Briggs wrote in an email to TSL that Harvey Mudd had discontinued its participation in programs sponsored by Dipont Education in 2015, citing that the programs “did not meet the needs of our evolving recruiting initiatives.” According to Reuters, an HMC admissions officer accepted a $250 flight upgrade in exchange for participating in its program in 2014.
“We continue to evaluate, on an ongoing basis, our participation in both domestic and international recruiting programs in an effort to ensure College resources are focused on programs that directly and positively impact our mission and Strategic Vision,” Briggs wrote.
The article also said Dipont employees have committed application fraud by helping students cheat the system. Six former employees told Reuters “that Dipont employees wrote application essays for students. Another said she altered recommendation letters that teachers had written for students. One student was given access to his high school transcript and erased bad grades.”
In a statement published on their website, Dipont denied the “so-called facts and allegations” written in the article.
“Dipont has always held integrity and transparency as essential principles and spared no effort in promoting the healthy development of China’s college counseling sector. Above all, Dipont has never attempted to influence the recruiting and admissions decisions by U.S. colleges in any way that is not appropriate,” the statement said.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling's Statement of Principles of Good Practice states that admissions officers can “not offer or accept any reward or remuneration from a secondary school, college, university, agency or organization for placement or recruitment of students in the United States” nor “employ agents who are compensated on a per capita basis when recruiting students outside the United States, unless ensuring they and their agents conduct themselves with accountability, transparency and integrity.” The statement does not specifically mention travel-related payment.
Allen wrote in an email to TSL that he accepted airfare last summer from Dipont, which he said is a standard practice in the U.S. when a program is educational.
According to Reuters, Scripps College and Pitzer College did not participate in any Dipont programs. Claremont McKenna College was mentioned in the Reuters article, but the college's Office of Communications was unable to comment as of press time.