Chinese enrollment draws attention

By Lily Abromeit, The Daily Iowan

Wendi Xie was not always such a good student.

In Beijing, where she grew up, Xie did not take education very seriously — until she realized she wanted to study in the United States.

“I wanted to seek something different, so I decided to come here,” she said.

chinese student group stands outside sushi restaurant
The Chinese Student and Scholar Association at the University of Iowa held a welcome dinner in August 2013.

Coming to the United States to receive an education is a competitive and expensive process, and in the last few years, more Chinese students such as Xie are taking advantage of the opportunity.

This influx of students has caused some in the nation to question whether this creates unfair competition between wealthier international students and middle-class Asian Americans.

But officials and students at the University of Iowa said they don’t see this competition and increase in foreign students as being negative.

“China really doesn’t yet have all of the capacity it needs to teach all its students, especially at the levels of the research universities like Iowa,” said Michael Barron, the UI assistant provost for enrollment management. “The number of applications from China has risen precipitously over the last four or five years, and it will continue to go up.”

At the UI, international students total 4,049 undergraduates, according to the UI International Programs fall 2013 enrollment statistics report. Students from East and Southeast Asia make up 73.3 percent of the international students with a total of 2,790, while students from China are 2,301 of them.

Barron said it’s not necessarily an increase in admittance but an increase in applications.

“The goal on the international-student side is to admit students from other countries who have academic records that are on par with the domestic students,” he said.

The misconception, he said, could come from the fact that it costs a lot to study in the United States.

“On the international side, it’s still all about academic achievement, but because of U.S. immigration policy, we are required to have international students who want to study in this country certify that they have the financial needs to do so,” he said.

UI junior Cuiwen Huang, who is from Shanghai, said the increase will most likely bring extra money to the school.

“Chinese international students will bring some financial supports to the school,” she wrote in an email. “From my perspective, mostly my friends who have enough money to pay for the living expense and tuitions in the U.S. are planning to study abroad or have already studied abroad.”

UI junior Daniel Dai said China’s growing economy is definitely a component of the growth.

“In the past decade or so, China has seen a huge economic growth, and more and more Chinese students want to study abroad,” he said. “Because America is the No. 1 place for higher education, a lot of people want to come here.”

Dai was born in Beijing and moved to the States when he was 3. He said he feels the pressure and competition between Asian American students and foreign students but doesn’t feel it is the biggest problem facing him today.

“I feel like Asian Americans are constantly competing against other Asian Americans,” he said. “To the point where affirmative action actually works against us.”

Xie said while she doesn’t necessarily feel as though there is negative competition, she does think all students need to think carefully before coming to the United States to study so they are enrolling for the right reasons.

“Some of them don’t want to study abroad, but their parents have higher expectations,” she said. “After those kids come here, they just don’t study.”

This, she said, perpetuates stereotypes and can be solved simply by educating families in China.

“People in China should really know what study-abroad life is really like,” she said. “[So] they can prepare themselves, and their parents can decide if their kids should study abroad or not.”

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