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The United States Remains the Destination of Choice for Chinese Students


The number of Chinese students coming to study in the United States continues to rise. There were almost 236,000 Chinese students in the United State in the academic year 2012-13 according to data from the International Institute of Education (IIE), up from 194,029 in the prior year, a 21% increase. China alone accounts for 29% of all international students in the United States and it is estimated that foreign students in the United States contributed almost $25 billion to the US economy in 2012-13. In comparison to other countries which experienced small declines in the number of students studying in the United States, Chinese students have continued on an upward trend. International students from South Korea, India, Taiwan and Japan in 2012-13 all declined by between 2-6% from the previous year.

China surpassed India as the largest source of international students in the United States in 2009-10. The dramatic growth in the number of Chinese students enrolled in US institutions of higher education is a result of China’s strong economy, a growing middle class, and China’s one-child policy where Chinese parents are able to focus all their resources on their only child, explained Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice-president of IIE.

Other countries including the Australia and United Kingdom are also trying to attract more Chinese students. For example, in 2012, the University of Sydney became the sixth Australian university to accept the Gaokao—China’s university entrance exam. Despite this, the United States still ranks as the first choice for Chinese students to seeking a higher education overseas. "The main reason the US is more popular is simply because there is a greater choice of recognised brands … and many more universities in total," according to William Vanbergen of BE Education, an educational consulting company based in Shanghai, China. Looking ahead it is feasible to predict that Chinese students coming to the United States for a higher education will continue to increase.

Jefferson Lee is a Graduate Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.