Students in Sanya, Hainan province go to attend gaokao in the rain on June 7, 2023. (Photo by Wang Chenglong/For chinadaily.com.cn)
There is a 950 million yuan ($131.15 million) industry cashing in on college admissions. As an increasing number of Chinese parents turn to paid service providers, who claim to be using AI-driven technology, to decide which universities their children should apply to for their undergraduate studies, experts have warned against opting for such services.
Chen Huajun, a professor at Zhejiang University's College of Computer Science and Technology, said that AI, assisted by big data technology, can help analyze information, which is good.
"It can help fill the information gap (between universities and students), but can only be used as a reference," Chen was quoted as saying by Qianjiang Evening News.
A fraud alert has been issued by Beijing Education Examinations Authority against "application consulting services with a high price tag". "Schools and teachers are forbidden to work with companies or institutions that make money by providing application consulting services," said the authority.
Students in China need to complete the college application process within a short time after gaokao, the nationwide college entrance exam, based on their grades.
If their grades are higher than the threshold announced by colleges they are applying to, they will be enrolled. Otherwise, they have to find a place in other schools.
According to data from the country's education ministry, as of June 15, there are 3,072 colleges and universities in China. A total of 12.91 million candidates are vying for admissions this year.
Against this backdrop, a large number of service providers are offering new tools, which they claim are based on artificial intelligence, to help with the college admission process. Hundreds of such apps are available in mobile app stores.
"It's a headache helping my daughter decide which universities she should apply for because of the overwhelming amount of information," said Li Jie, mother of a college candidate in Shanxi province. "However, I didn't take help from any apps or companies because I'm not sure how capable those are," she added.
According to Chinese corporate information provider Tianyancha, there are more than 1,850 enterprises in China with names or business scope that suggest involvement in the college application process. Many internet giants such as Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba have also developed such apps. There are also many in-person consulting services to help candidates. The fees range from hundreds to several thousands yuan.
The domestic market consultancy firm iiMedia Research estimates that the market value of the college application industry has reached 950 million yuan, a sixfold increase from 2016.
However, there is no such entity as "a college application planner "on the official list of occupational qualifications released by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. This means there are no clear standards for people who provide such services.