Chinese and Other Foreign Students in the U.S.

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Game-Changing Government Policies & Drivers

By William Hillis

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William Hillis

Broker & Research Editor, Realogics Sotheby's International Realty

"Parents sending children to U.S. secondary schools aim to avoid the gaokao and obtain their admission to Western universities, hoping to guarantee their success in China or abroad." 

 

The University of Washington is among the world’s most successful in attracting foreign students. However, the UW was one of the six out of twenty colleges and universities surveyed by VOA Student Union to report declines in foreign student applications earlier this year (2017). In 2014, the last year for which statistics were reported, 3,845 (52.7 percent) of the UW’s 7,299 foreign students were from China.

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As for high schools, an August 2017 report by the Institute of International Education (IIE) shows that “Chinese students make up 42 percent of all international secondary students and increased 48 percent from 2013 to 2016.” Parents sending children to U.S. secondary schools aim to avoid the gaokao and obtain their admission to Western universities, hoping to guarantee their success in China or abroad.

In a published counterpoint to John Pomfret’s alarm-raising report about Chinese students at U.S. colleges, Lawrence Kuok of Microsoft disputes Pomfret’s thesis. Kuok advises,

Admitting more Chinese students to American universities means that many great minds will try to stay in the U.S. and work at American firms with American direction, and not go back to China to work at Chinese firms. This strengthens American companies and, in turn, America. 

More of them are choosing to opt out of the American dream. Chinese government sources report that over 82 percent of students abroad returned to China in 2016, up from 72 percent in 2012. A Chinese state researcher said that “returning students had more resources and better networks in China to find a job, while Chinese students in the U.S. were dependent on 20,000 H-1B visas for tens of thousands of students.” Yet even if only 10 or 15 percent of students in such numbers remain annually, ample benefits of their employment transfer to the U.S. domestic and state economies.

Impact: The University of Washington and many leading Puget Sound area high schools will continue to draw foreign students from China and other countries of origin. The student visa program is not under the same threat as the H1-B program.