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Wealthy pay millions to put kids in college

(China Daily)    08:03, May 06, 2019

Billionaire denies influence-peddling, says donation a personal, family matter

A college admissions cheating scheme in the United States has triggered widespread discussion among Chinese netizens during the four-day May Day holiday after it was reported that a wealthy family paid $6.5 million to assure their daughter's admission to Stanford University.

Billionaire Zhao Tao, 52, president and co-founder of Shandong Buchang Pharmaceuticals, a company that specializes in traditional Chinese medicine to fight cardiovascular disease, reportedly funneled money to William Rick Singer, the admissions consultant who is at the center of the explosive case brought by US federal prosecutors.

The executive's daughter, Zhao Yusi, also known as Molly Zhao, got a spot at Stanford University by presenting herself as a recruit for the school's sailing team. The price was $6.5 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Zhao's mother, identified as Mrs Zhao in a statement delivered through her attorney, said the family gave $6.5 million to Singer for the school's scholarship fund and other purposes.

She said she sought college advisory services from him because she was not familiar with the admission process for colleges in the United States.

After the daughter was admitted to Stanford, Singer asked her for a donation to the university through his foundation. Singer said the donation was to pay the salaries of academic staff, scholarships, athletic programs and financial aid for students who otherwise would not be able to afford Stanford.

In a 2017 video posted on the Chinese video platform Douyu, which went viral after the scandal was revealed, Zhao Yusi said she had been admitted to Stanford through her own "hard work".

"Some people think, Didn't you get into Stanford because your family is rich?" she said, while offering viewers advice on getting into prestigious US universities. "It wasn't like that. The admissions officers have no idea who you are."

Zhao Tao responded to media reports with a statement released on his company's website on Friday.

"My daughter's studies in the US are a personal and family issue" and has no ties to Shandong Buchang Pharmaceuticals, it said. "My daughter's US university tuition has no relation to the company, which has not influenced the matter in any way."

In March, Stanford University suspended Zhao Yusi, a second-year student. Sherry Guo, another Chinese student caught up in the scandal, was expelled from Yale University after it emerged that her family paid $1.2 million to Singer to get her admitted. Like the Zhaos, neither Guo nor her family faced charges over the incident.

Forbes estimated that the personal wealth of Zhao Tao, a naturalized Singaporean citizen, is $1.8 billion.

Shandong Buchang Pharmaceuticals was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in November 2016. The company made a net profit of 1.89 billion yuan ($280 million) last year, up 15 percent year-on-year.

In 2017, there were more than 363,000 Chinese students enrolled in universities in the United States, more than one-third of all international students, according to the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization in New York.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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