A new mindset is needed in recruiting Chinese students (opinion)

The United States has long been considered a primary study destination for Chinese students, but recent trends suggest that is changing.

According to the Open Doors data from the Institute of International Education. Chinese student enrollment soared after the 2008 financial crisis due to the country’s economic boom and a burgeoning middle class. Meanwhile, budget cuts at many U.S. higher education institutions forced their leaders to seek new sources of revenue, and Chinese students quickly filled the void, pumping billions of dollars into their host institutions and in the American economy.

In recent years, however, geopolitical tensions and the trade war between the United States and China have given a negative image of the United States as a study destination. The global COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent rise in anti-Asian racism, and unending gun violence in the United States have heightened the concerns of Chinese families. The 15% drop in Chinese student enrollment on US campuses during the pandemic has been a wake-up call for many US higher education leaders, suggesting the need for a more strategic approach to student enrollment. Chinese students rather than simply treating students as a source of income.

Meanwhile, partial or complete shutdowns in major cities across China this year due to the country’s “zero COVID” strategy, including in Beijing and Shanghai, have led to a sharp economic recession, threatening the livelihoods of people. people and raising questions about the ability of Chinese families. allow their children an expensive education abroad.

Understand the complex family finance landscape

It is in this context that the international admissions team at Amherst College, which I lead, interviewed Chinese parents to better understand the current thinking of Chinese families on providing an American education.

Of the 343 parents we surveyed in late June, 92% are parents of current high school students who plan to apply to college in the United States this fall or next fall (the remaining 8% are parents of recent high school graduates who have already completed their college admissions process). A staggering 90% of parents indicated that they would be the primary source of funding for their children’s education in the United States.

While most Chinese parents are committed to self-funding their children’s American education, their income level varies widely. Thirty-five percent of parents have an annual after-tax income between $74,740 and $149,481 depending on the current exchange rate. Thirty percent bring in between $14,948 and $74,739 a year, and 2% have after-tax income below $14,948.

Most Chinese families are under the impression that if their children apply for financial aid in American colleges, their chances of admission would be drastically reduced. Their concern is not unfounded, as there are only seven colleges in the United States that adopt a blind admissions policy for both domestic and international applicants and truly disregard a student’s ability to pay. an international applicant during the admissions process – namely, Amherst, Bowdoin, and Dartmouth Colleges; Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institutions that operate with a limited financial aid budget for international students are often forced to distribute funding to international students from countries with less representation on campus instead of China. This can inadvertently keep out truly qualified Chinese students who may apply with significant financial need. There are also institutions that are explicit in their message that there is no funding available for non-US applicants, in which case international students who apply in need are usually turned away.

Navigating the many types of assistance programs is not always clear for Chinese families. Forty-one percent of parents surveyed said financial aid policies for international students at US colleges are not sufficiently transparent. Sixty-five percent said they knew little or nothing about how financial aid works at US colleges.

Unfamiliarity with how the system works and fear of being denied admission due to financial need has prompted Chinese parents to demonstrate that they are able to pay during the admissions process, even if it means borrowing money. money to relatives and friends. An impressive 47% of parents surveyed set aside a budget of $298,962 to $448,443 for a four-year college education in the United States. Eighteen percent have a budget between $448,444 and $597,925, and 4% have a budget over $597,925.

In other words, 69% of parents surveyed can, on paper, comfortably afford a four-year college education at most American institutions, public or private. However, further analysis revealed that even among these 69% of parents, 23% of them expressed the need for institutional financial assistance to help them pay for a four-year degree, suggesting that their needs actual financials may be higher than it appears.

Our survey found that 33% of all parents surveyed indicated that they needed institutional financial support to afford a four-year degree. Fifty-eight percent of all parents surveyed expressed a desire for some form of financial support to ease financial pressure.

Additionally, recent COVID-related lockdowns have impacted many families’ budget planning. Fifteen percent of parents said their education budget had been severely affected by pandemic restrictions. The negative impact is felt most strongly among parents whose annual after-tax income is between $14,948 and $74,739: 30% of survey respondents in this group said their budget had decreased significantly. Sixty-three percent of all parents surveyed said their budget had decreased slightly.

New mindset needed in US colleges toward Chinese students

The survey results paint a much more complex picture of how Chinese families plan to fund their children’s education in the United States. The widespread mindset of treating Chinese students as cash cows not only harms the reputation of excellence and academic quality of American higher education, but also dehumanizes Chinese students and diminishes their myriad intellectual contributions. and social to their host institutions and to American society.

Chinese families will continue to do everything possible to help their children pursue the best possible education, given the deeply rooted culture of “education first” that dates back to the era of Confucius. But as the global competition to attract this critical population grows, US higher education institutions should come up with a more sustainable and inclusive strategy for recruiting and enrolling Chinese students. It is more imperative than ever to invest time and resources to understand their true needs and offer them adequate support, including financial assistance, to ensure their well-being as well as their academic and professional success.

Back To Top