Today, China sends more of its students to America than any other country. During the 2010-11 academic year, 157,588 Chinese students were studying in the U.S. – an increase of 23 percent from the previous year, according to the Institute of International Education.
The growing market of Chinese students wanting to go to the U.S. has created various cottage industries in China and the U.S. – among them are education consultants who help students navigate the maze of college applications and “brokers” representing American universities who seek student candidates paying full tuition. But it’s also fueled anxiety among American students and their parents about increased competition from abroad.
At the start of the 2006-07 academic year, 9,955 Chinese undergrads were enrolled in U.S. schools. The following year, that figure jumped to 16,450. By the 2010-11 academic year, 56,976 undergraduates made up a third of all Chinese students living in the U.S.
“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 Blumenthal. “The Chinese undergrads are all coming virtually self-funded.”
The fact that so many students pay their own way has not gone unnoticed.
“Foreign students spend about $21 billion a year in the U.S. in tuition and living expenses for them and their families,” said Charles Bennett, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. embassy in Beijing – where Ambassador Gary Locke has made among his top priorities the expansion of visa processing capacity in China.
“That’s a very large sum of money for U.S. academic institutions,” continued Bennett, especially as so many face shrinking endowments or reduced state funding.
The Chinese comprise at least 21 percent of all international students newly enrolled in American schools, which means that they and their families contribute roughly $4 billion to the American economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.