At the end of September 2019 US based education agency EduBoston abruptly shut up shop leaving client schools and hundreds of Chinese international students with unpaid tuition fees (see Boston Globe and PIE News). The company specialised in recruiting and enrolling Chinese international students at US High Schools.
Here’s the company’s promo video on YouTube:
On 27 November 2019 the US Department of Justice announced that the owner of EduBoston, Keenam “Kason” Park, was charged in relation to a scheme to defraud high schools and international students of millions of dollars in tuition and other fees.
Park was arrested on 28 November and appeared in federal court that day charged with one count of wire fraud. The charge carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offence.
It is alleged that, over a period of nine years between 2010 and 2019:
- EduBoston (a trading name of K&B Education Group LLC) worked with private high schools across at least 10 US states to recruit international students.
- EduBoston collected tuition and other fees from the students’ families which should have been paid to its client schools.
- The funds were not paid and EduBoston owes over US$5 million to client schools.
- Park used the money for personal lifestyle expenses.
Update – August 2020
On 10 August Park pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. According to the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence of 51 months in prison, two years of supervised release and a fine and restitution/forfeiture of at least $5,192,330.
EduBoston – the fallout
Whenever things go wrong with education agents you can almost guarantee that client institutions and students will be hurt. This incident is no different. Schools have not been paid tuition, and students who were placed in home stay accommodation have found that their hosts have not been paid. Some student and their supporters have resorted to crowdfunding to pay their hosts (here’s an example).
EduBoston – digital footprint
If there is an incident with one of your education agents that causes them to go out of business, or leads you to terminate your agency agreement or contract with them, it’s important that you have a plan in place to quickly erase (or at least reduce) the ‘digital footprint’ of your institution’s relationship with the education agent.
The digital footprint includes:
- Information controlled by your institution – references to the education agency on your website.
- Information that your institution does not control – references to the partnership between your institution and the education agency on the education agency’s website and across the web (in particular on the big social media sites – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc.)
Of course in order to respond, you first need to know about the incident. AgentBee’s education agent alerts can help with that.
We thought it might be helpful to take this case and run a real life digital footprint exercise.
Information controlled by institutions
A Google search found four schools that continue to reference a partnership with EduBoston on their own websites. We’re not saying this list is exhaustive. It is what we found quickly, and serves as an example of the type of information we’re talking about.
Information not controlled by institutions
When an education agency closes its doors, it is often the case that the agency website lives on for some time – a ‘zombie’ website of sorts. That can be a problem when the zombie website lists all of the agency agreements and contracts that the agency had in place with educational institutions in happier times.
The EduBoston website is no longer active so there is no problem in this case.
But we did find quite a bit of content on social media sites linking EduBoston with its former client institutions. For the purposes of this post we’ll focus on YouTube.
EduBoston has a YouTube Channel, which is still live (as at 6.12.19).
It contains a host of videos featuring former client institutions. Most use the same title format: [Name of institution] – an EduBoston Partner School.
Removing information that you don’t control on the web is obviously harder than changing your own website, but it can be done.
For example YouTube enables users to report a video on the basis that it infringes copyright or other legal rights.
This may be an option for those institutions that have videos on EduBoston’s YouTube Channel.
How good are your education agent monitoring systems?
If your institution is working with education agents it is critical that you have strong systems in place to:
- monitor the professionalism of your education agents
- know when there is a serious incident, and
- respond quickly to protect your students and brand.
AgentBee supports educational institutions around the world to do all three.