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Published May 16 2012

North Dakota higher ed board tightens international student policies

BISMARCK – The state Board of Higher Education is working to tighten admission policies for international students after fake transcripts and bogus degrees became evident at Dickinson State University.

On Wednesday the board approved a first reading of changes that include requiring all transcripts from international institutions be submitted for verification to an established transcript evaluation service.

An audit found some Chinese student transcripts submitted to Dickinson State were fakes. When one student did not have a prerequisite class, the following day the student presented a new “official” transcript complete with the official Chinese university stamp and with the required prerequisite class listed, the audit said.

DSU officials discovered students can buy Chinese university official stamps on the Internet and put any class or grade on their transcript.

Granting hundreds of degrees and certificates to Chinese students who did not earn them is one of many issues revealed by state audits of Dickinson State in recent months.

The board also agreed Wednesday to revise language relating to English language proficiency that includes chancellor approval of institution standards. The audit found Dickinson State accepted a non-standard English proficiency test for Chinese students.

When DSU tested 25 students with the widely accepted TOEFL English-language test, 21 failed.

The board also added policy language to prohibit payment of student recruiting agents on a commission or per-student basis.

The audit found Chinese recruiting agents were not performing according to their contracts and were driven by quantity of students, not quality. Agents’ contracts also varied in detail and pay. Russian agents were paid per student even if they didn’t recruit them, the audit said.

DSU President D.C. Coston has said the university has terminated its agreements with these recruiters and has ceased the special international programs.

Since 2003, when DSU began its special international student program, it had paid $2.1 million to various recruiters. The money came from fees these students paid to the university.

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.

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