The incentive for most people doing unethical things is generally money. Yes, to meet the “self-interest”, we usually prefer to take the money and be less ethical. Like I mentioned before, I have been working in an education consulting company in China for 2 years. And I quit last year because of some unusual experience.
This industry is very profitable right now, mostly due to the increasing need of counselor service, but also the specific target customers — high income families. In China, education cost is usually the largest portion for family budget, and parents are willing to paid more than 50% of their income as long as their children(child in most cases) get the best possible education. Our clients were willing to pay more than $25,000 for individual counseling service. However, as the counselor, what are the responsibilities? Usually the service included school selection, personal statement brainstorming, resume modification and so on. Instead of help the students to do the application, the company is trying to build up a real mentoring relationship between students and counselors. This new methodology worked out perfectly and convinced most family that their kids are educated during the process as well. As the industry’s leader, the company I worked for only take 300 students a year, and there were usually more than 1,000 students applying. The so-called “application process” soon was converted to an “auction”, at least in my opinion. If you are not the top students, you simply need to pay more to get in. There were students paying more than $50,000 for the service. At the same time, if you pay more, the consultants were willing to write the personal statements for you. In the grey area of college application, every single thing on the application checklist has a price.
The day before I quit, I met a family with my colleague in the office. After the consulting, we recognized that the student can hardly write or speak English. While we were trying to convince the family that our service might not be a good choice for the son, the father put a business case on the table. He opened it, and there is more than half million Yuan in the case. Clearly, that was the price he willing to pay, and clearly, after “negotiated” with the management team, the kid got in. I saw the smile on my partner’s face, as ten percent of the money was paid as commission to us, which is nearly $5,000 for each of us. The money, cash in fact, really shocked me a while. Somehow I felt like a drug dealer, just finished some illegal transaction. I can still hardly forget the smile of my colleague. He graduated from ivy 2 years ago. And he is making more than $100,000 by being a consultant. We were really good friends after work, and he is a nice and smart guy. He just became someone I was not familiar with at that moment. So I quit, right after. I think people were losing themselves in the company. They were all brilliant people, and usually drew all the right decisions. But when those amount of money was in front of you, you just couldn’t say no. At least they failed to do so.
I thought it was about education, but it turned out to be more about how to cheat the system. Trust between colleges and students are breaking down. How much does $5,000 means to a college graduate? What about $50,000? What is your price?
PS: the featured picture is not that half million Yuan.