Chinese students in the US

I was not surprised to read that 8000 Chinese students have been expelled from US universities for cheating or that Chinese students were accused of cheating on college entrance exams.  I have lived in China, and I used to work in an ESL program that catered to Chinese students.

What surprised me was the fact that someone dared to explain the cause of the problem: ‘American Universities Are Addicted to Chinese Students’.  The author, Matt Schiavenza writes:

Chinese students represent 31 percent of all international students in the country and contributed an estimated $22 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014.  …

Chinese students have become a big market in the United States—and nobody understands this better than the universities themselves. Over 60 percent of Chinese students cover the full cost of an American university education themselves, effectively subsidizing the education of their lower-income American peers. Some schools—such as Purdue University in Indiana—profit further by charging additional fees for international students.

The university I worked at was willing to put up with students who couldn’t read, write or speak English because they brought in a lot of revenue.  These students were allowed to leave the ESL program before they made much progress because they didn’t want to “waste”  time learning English.

And unfortunately, it isn’t just a problem at smaller schools like the one I worked at.  One of my students applied to a prestigious grad school in New York and was accepted — even though her English was nowhere near good enough for her to graduate work.

When a university is dependent on Chinese students as a source of revenue, it is hard to demand much from them.  It is part of the business model that seems to be running a lot of universities these days.  The customer is always right.


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