According to the Institute of International Education, China sends more of its international students to America than to any other country, with 157,588 arriving in the 2010-11 academic year.
And with the boom, there has been a growing market of education consultants who help students navigate the maze of college applications and “brokers” that charge anywhere from $17,000 to almost $40,000 for tailored consultation packages that dispense advice on choosing the right schools, writing essays, or preparing for interviews.
“What you’re seeing is the growth of the middle class of China who can really afford to send their kids to the U.S.,” said Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president at the Institute of International Education (IIE).
“The Chinese undergrads are all coming virtually self-funded.”
The financial implications of this influx of students has not gone unnoticed.
Charles Bennett, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, said:
“Foreign students spend about $21 billion a year in the U.S. in tuition and living expenses for them and their families.
“That’s a very large sum of money for U.S. academic institutions.”
China currently provides around 21 percent of all international students newly enrolled in American schools – contributing roughly $4 billion to the American economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, writes Adriene Mong at NBC News.
But are Chinese students taking American students’ places in colleges with their ability to pay full tuition?
“We’re all competing for the same goal, and the fact that they’re international makes them that much more interesting to the UCs,” said Casey Chang, a senior at Claremont High School in Claremont, California.
There are positives. The revenue that comes in from Chinese students can help cash-strapped systems like California’s, who are seeing record enrollments from out-of-state and international students.
“For the 2010-11 academic year, California welcomed the most international students – 96,535. And for the tenth year in a row the University of Southern California was the leading host U.S. institution for overseas students, enrolling 8,615,” writes Mong.
And the influx also helps by adding diversity to campuses.
“Most Americans will not study abroad. On the other hand, their careers will be global,” observed Blumenthal.
“They need to learn how to interact with professionals from other countries, and many of them will be from China. There are very few industries or business not affected by China.”