Send In the Chinese!

On the front page of the New York Times* and the Chronicle of Higher Education today is a story about Chinese students in American universities. Much of the story is about the troubles that both sides are having with the relationship: the Chinese are sometimes getting ripped off by agents supposedly helping them get into American schools, the agents are sometimes lying to the American schools, and too few Chinese students can speak English very well.

What’s most interesting, though, is the way some American university administrators see financial gains to be had:

Not long ago, Tom Melcher, of Zinch China [a consulting firm advising American universities on China] was contacted by the provost of a large American university who wanted to recruit 250 Chinese students, stat. When asked why, the provost replied that his institution faced a yawning budget deficit. To fill it, he told Mr. Melcher, the university needed additional students who could pay their own way, and China has many of them.

As it turns out, our own governor Beverly Perdue sees dollar signs as well. Commenting on her recent trip to China, which including promoting North Carolina universities to prospective Chinese students, she said:

Today’s event was an opportunity to both help a great North Carolina company grow its business in China and to show off our colleges and universities to Chinese students and leaders…. In addition to paying out-of-state tuition and bringing revenue to our state, international students increase campus diversity and help foster a greater understanding between our countries. [Emphasis added]

Will it really help North Carolina? Some may be skeptical, thinking that if the Chinese stay here, they will take American jobs. I’m optimistic, though. If they do stay, so much the better for us. As Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal once told a Chinese ambassador, the Chinese economy will never overtake the American, because our Chinese are smarter than their Chinese.

*It was on the front page of their site this morning, anyway.

Duke Cheston

Writer/reporter for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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