As overall international enrollment in US universities drops, one country is still increasing its share of students: China.
The number of students from China to the US rose 6.8 percent over the previous year, continuing the trend of more Chinese families being able to afford the tuition fees, according to Xinhua.
“As Chinese develops better and better (sic), more people are able to afford the tuition fees. Most of the top educational institutions are located in the United States and Europe, so Chinese parents want to send their kids outside to open their mind and to explore different education systems,” Joyce Wang, a Chinese student at University of Southern California (USC), told Xinhua.
Student Fan Yilan, a sophomore at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin said: “In China, it’s not in decline at all. It’s in the opposite way. It’s increasing. There’re more Chinese students seeking education abroad in the United States.
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China now dominates the international education scene in the US with the most number of students there for the 8th year running. The data is according to the Institute of International Education’s recent annual report on international enrollment, called Open Doors.
India recorded a higher increase as well, at 12.8 percent from the previous year. However, Open Doors data showed a 3.3 percent drop in new (as opposed to total) international students in the 2016-17 academic year, Inside Higher Ed reported.
An evolving demographic
Things are changing for Chinese students in US universities, however, reflecting the country’s declining competitiveness compared to rivals such as Canada and Australia.
For one, fees are on the up. Wang complained that each year she had to pay more to stay on campus.
“I attended USC in 2014. The tuition fee keeps increasing ever since. I think that’s one of the reasons that less international students come here,” she told Xinhua.
Standards have increased too, according to Fan. This means it is now harder for foreign applicants to gain admission, although they have the same experiences and TOFEL or SAT scores as their American counterparts.
“So in general, if you invest more, you are getting less,” added Fan.
And as the number of foreign graduates increases in China’s labour market, Chinese employers are now more discerning of the candidate pool available as well, warned. Ben Lee, Associate Director of Master of Communication Management Program at USC. Lee urged Chinese parents to be “more calculative” when applying for a US university.
“I would say that at the same time, the outcome for a student and his family investing in overseas education is no longer that simple,” Lee said.
“The Chinese market and its employers can now distinguish overseas students with strong experiences from strong programs from those who are just there from a mediocre program and not working hard to benefit from their stay abroad.”
One new uptake, however, is in the apparent shift in stereotypes about Chinese students.
Fan denies the old media reports which used to depict them as nerds or rich kids. The student from Beijing takes part in volunteer jobs and fundraising with schoolmates, as well as putting an effort to be friends with local students to better understand their culture.
“We’re participating in all the organizations and trying to take initiative to position ourselves,” Fan said.
“So I think it is really a fun part not only for me, but for a lot of my friends. We are really trying to participate in all the events in college,” she added.