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The international higher education community, especially China, has potentially offered VCU the alternative revenue streams the university has been searching for.
This summer VCU president Michael Rao went to China in an attempt to strengthen an old relationship with Fudan University, and while there created partnerships with four new Chinese schools.
“Our goals first and foremost are to attract international students from around China to come to VCU,” Rao said.
International students can do a lot for a college campus, from adding diversity to allowing students to interact with future counterparts. Students from abroad also help VCU’s balance sheet by paying out-of-state tuition.
“One of the reasons that a lot of institutions persue students from outside of the state and sometimes outside of the country is because they’re paying for the full cost of education,” Rao said.
Whether increased enrollment of international students can provide a significant bump in finances to VCU is still up in the air, Rao said.
China has become the No. 1 country of origin for international students studying in the states, sending over 230,000 college-aged students across the Pacific in the 2012-13 school year, according to the Institute for International Education. The next country on the list, India, has less than half as many students deciding to study in America at just over 96,000.
In the 1990s the number of undergraduate college students in China doubled 2.1 million to 4.1 million. In 2010 it had grown to a staggering 22.3 million, according to the American Council for Education.
Hong Cheng is a professor at the Robertson School at VCU and went on the trip with Rao. He says Chinese students are coming to America due to the brand strength of American higher education in China.
“My personal experience can testify to that,” Cheng said. He moved to America from China in 1990 after receiving his doctorate from Penn State.
Cheng said there are a few reasons why so many more students have come to the US for higher education in recent years.
“If you talk about the Chinese culture, education is highly valued and scholars are very respected,” he said.
Chinese families encourage continued education, but in the most populated country on Earth there are a limited number of available spots at national universities.
However, a burgeoning economy has led to a growing middle class who can now afford to look outside of the country for educational opportunities.
Just a few years ago another East Asian country, South Korea, was the sending more college students to America than China. However, the number of South Korean students seeking an American education has declined. Some say this is due to the increased access to quality education in South Korea.
“For China that could happen in the future, but I don’t see it happening in the near future,” Cheng said.