A2 Basic US 18 Folder Collection
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These students are recreating China's most popular dating show on their college campus.
– So when I heard there's going to be a Chinese TV style dating show, I was thinking like
50 people in a classroom.
But this is on a whole different level.
And it's all happening in Illinois.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enrolls more than 5,000 Chinese students.
So many it's been called “the University of China at Illinois.”
And it's part of a global trend.
In the US alone, there are now six times more Chinese students than there were just two decades ago.
They account for one-third of all international students and contributed nearly $14 billion
to the US economy in 2017.
But what are the implications of so many students and so much money coming from just one country?
We're traveling around the world to find out how China is reshaping…basically everything.
This week…UNIVERSITIES.
I'm Isabelle Niu reporting for Quartz.
You're watching Because China.
Xianghua Feng is a fourth year accounting student from China.
Chinese students like Xianghua are here because of two converging trends.
The first is pretty straightforward:
More Chinese students study abroad than ever before,
thanks to the country's fast-expanding middle class.
The second reason is that universities in rich, English-speaking countries have been
admitting more and more international students because they need money.
Professor Hans de Wit studies international higher education.
He says this is a relatively recent shift.
– So when did universities begin to see international students as a revenue source?
– That depends a little bit by country.
The countries which were on the forefront were Australia and the United Kingdom.
British and Australian universities introduced full international fees in the 1980s.
Universities began aggressively marketing and recruiting.
By 2010, the number of international students jumped by 600% in the UK and 2,000% in Australia.
In the US, it happened a little later, partly because higher education has always been pretty expensive.
– Tuition is very high for both local students and international students, so there
was not an active need until recently to recruit international students for income reasons.
Then 2008 happened.
Funding for state universities was already in decline before 2008, but the recession
made things much worse.
So state universities were forced to find revenue elsewhere, and they found it in China.
This chart sums it up.
Here's the growth trend of Chinese students in the US before the recession.
And this is post-recession.
If we think of higher education as an export, then this is one area where the US has a huge
trade surplus with China.
All the Chinese students I talked to say they chose a state school
because they can get more bang for their buck.
That's true, even though a Chinese undergrad at a state university like UIUC
pays about $20,000 more in tuition every year than an in-state student.
Universities use revenue from international students to subsidize other operations,
including creating scholarships for Americans.
And the numbers show that it's not just good for the school, it's good for the American economy.
– They shop in the local stores, they travel back and forth to China, they spend money
in terms of their social life or traveling within the United States, so every part of
the United States benefits from that.
But there are also serious risks with relying on Chinese students' tuition.
– If you are becoming so dependent on foreign students and in particular on one group,
Chinese students, then your sustainability as an institution becomes very fragile.
The business school gets about 20% of its revenue from more than 800 Chinese students enrolled here.
– And that's a big enough number that that's something you want to be able to protect yourself against.
This is the dean of the business school at UIUC, Jeff Brown.
In 2017, his school did something unprecedented.
The business school and engineering school together took out a $60 million insurance policy,
in case of a sudden drop in Chinese student enrollment.
– As far as we know we're the first to do this anywhere in the world.
And we've gotten a lot of phone calls from other universities about how to do it.
I know a lot of places are interested in doing it.
And that deal was before President Trump's trade war with China.
– I think the risks that we identified back four years ago is still very much there.
One could argue actually that the risk is perhaps elevated.
And making sure international students succeed takes resources.
UIUC has invested a lot in programs that help international students adjust to American campus life.
The university even broadcasted its football games in Mandarin in 2015.
– I think the more that our domestic students and the students from China get to interact with each other
and frankly I think that's not just good for the University of Illinois.
I think that's good for the world.
But differences in language and culture make those kinds of exchanges more difficult for everyone.
– I think that there's definitely a stigma there, that they are kind of viewed as a different group of people
that have different interests,
I think if there was more interaction between the groups and there was less divide,
it would only help the campus grow.
If students go through the entire four years of college without interacting with the wider community,
or improving their English, that's a missed opportunity
for both domestic students and the international students themselves.
That doesn't mean students aren't happy.
Those I talked to said they're creating their own version of the American college experience.
– Socially, I've had a blast. I've met lots of great people, lots of great friends.
I personally think my college experience would have changed really at all
with international students or without.
Again, I believe that college is what you make of it.
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How Chinese students are changing universities around the world

18 Folder Collection
Courtney Shih published on January 2, 2020
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