US colleges fret over fall in Chinese students

By LIA ZHU | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-06 07:35
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Former NBA and Chinese Basketball Association star Stephon Marbury plays with Chinese students in Manhattan, New York, last year. MA DELIN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

A ban on visitors from some Muslim countries initially put forward by the administration of US President Donald Trump, and a proposed ban on all Chinese students going to the US, which were later dropped, have created perceptions of the country becoming unattractive and unsafe for international students, Choudaha said.

Nicole Shen, from Suzhou, Jiangsu province, said she is considering the University of Toronto in Canada for her daughter, who is attending a high school in Palo Alto, California.

"Canada is more welcoming, and it has better immigration policies. I heard it's easier to get a work visa after graduation. And if you work for three consecutive years, you can get a green card (permanent residency)," she said.

Safety and a perceived anti-immigration climate are her only concerns. "Money is not a worry," Shen said. "We would rather sell property to support our child." The family has a budget of $50,000 for annual college tuition fees.

According to a survey in 2017 by Studyportals, a company in Boston that offers an online international student recruitment platform, nearly two-thirds of 1,815 prospective students said they would lose interest in studying in the US due to changes that limit work opportunities for students from abroad.

Choudaha said in a report on international student mobility published by UC Berkeley in April that the ability to work while a student, and paths to entering the US job market and possibly becoming a citizen, are also critical factors for many students selecting their foreign study destinations.

Overseas students are experiencing more visa issues in the US when they apply to stay and work.

Min Yuhan, a Chinese student at Foothill College in the Bay Area, California, said: "I know many graduates have been turned down by Silicon Valley companies. Compared with a few years ago, the situation is worse now."

The college Min attends has 1,621 international students. "Every year, we have more than 100 new students from China," he said.

The increasing popularity of community colleges among Chinese students has prompted Min to launch a startup providing a "one-stop" service for such students to study at these institutions in the US.

Min, who has a company in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said: "The decisions are mostly made by parents. Aside from the safety issues, visa hassles and slim hopes of landing a job are cooling interest in Chinese sending their children to America."

Elizabeth Venturini, a college admissions consultant in California, said, "With studies for a four-year college degree costing anywhere from $150,000 to $260,000, parents cannot afford to make a financial mistake with their child's education."

The main reasons for Chinese families sending their children to the US are to avoid the stress of taking the gaokao-the national college entrance exam-and to learn or improve their English-speaking skills, Venturini said.

An increasing number of options are available to meet such demands. Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are the biggest competitors to the US, she said.

Some of the world's top international student hosting countries have seen growing enrollment due to official recruitment efforts.

In 2016, Australia launched its National Strategy for International Education 2025 to develop the country's role as a global leader in education and research.

As a result, the number of international students in the country reached a record high in 2017, with more than 690,000 enrolled for the fall semester last year, according to the Australian Department of Education and Training.

Canada has also taken measures to invite international students to the country as part of a government strategy to attract talent for job creation and economic growth. The country's efforts include quickly processing student visas and creating pathways for certain international students to remain in Canada after graduation.

Canada has seen a steady increase in international enrollment since 2014. There were nearly 500,000 international students in the country in 2017, a 17 percent year-on-year increase, according to a report by the Canadian Bureau for International Education in August.

Choudaha said in his report: "American higher education is entering a new era of intensified competition. Institutions must identify ways to reinvest some of the income generated by international student tuition toward proactive outreach strategies and creative scholarship packages that broaden and diversify the pool of prospective international students."

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