Thursday, January 17, 2019

Chinese College Invasion

I have written recently about how increasingly dependent the global economy has become on China.

I had no idea how that also extends to American colleges and universities until I read this article on the University of Illinois purchasing an insurance policy against a drop in Chinese student enrollment. The policy pays the university should there be more than a 20% drop in revenues from Chinese students in a single year following "triggering events". These events include such "triggers" as visa restrictions, a pandemic, or trade wars. In other words, something out of the control of the university.

Why is the University of Illinois so concerned?

Chinese students have become a huge revenue source for the school. 51% of foreign students and 12% of the total student body now come from China.

The same is true for many American colleges and universities.

The number of international students has been growing and a big part of that growth has been due to the influx of Chinese students to American schools.

According to the Brookings Institute, between 2008-2012, Chinese students paid nearly $7 billion in college tuition. It is undoubtedly much, much higher today. A group of Texas universities, concerned about limitations on students visas, estimated that Chinese college students contributed $12.55 billion to the U.S economy in 2016 alone.

Here is a chart that shows the growth of international students studying at U.S. colleges.

A third of those students are from China alone. Together, China and India now make up half of international students at American colleges.


As recently as 2006 Chinese students made up only 10% of international students.

You can also see how far the numbers and mix of international students has changed by looking at the same chart for the 1979-80 school year.


Here are the universities that were most dependent on Chinese students for the 2014-15 school year. This is the most recent data I could find. I think you can see why the University of Illinois took out that insurance policy.

I was curious what was going on at my own undergraduate institution regarding Chinese students. Miami University is about as midwestern as it gets. It is located in the small rural town of Oxford, Ohio. The environment in Oxford is about as far removed from China as you could imagine.

Miami has 17,000 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students on the Oxford campus.

There are 2,832 international students in those numbers. (14.5%)

2,682 Chinese students (includes some who may be at branch campuses) are enrolled at Miami. That is over 13% of the student body.

The next highest country that is represented among international students? India---98!

You might as well call the International Study Society at Miami the Chinese Student Society.

Why are Chinese students attractive to Miami?

Undoubtedly, they are smart and hard working.

However, consider the economics.

Miami is a state school. In-state tuition for an Ohio resident is $15,378 for the 2018-19 academic year. For non-Ohio residents it is $34,895.

Looking at the numbers of Chinese students and the dollars involved, it might not be a bad idea for Miami to also be looking into that insurance.

I wrote recently that we need to keep our eye on China.

I had no idea that it was particularly true for college administrators.

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