News / USA

Chinese Students Flock to US High Schools in Soaring Numbers

FILE - 16-year-old Zhang Kaisheng smiles near Chinese and U.S. national flags at the lobby of Focus Education, a tutoring and consulting agency in Beijing.
FILE - 16-year-old Zhang Kaisheng smiles near Chinese and U.S. national flags at the lobby of Focus Education, a tutoring and consulting agency in Beijing.
Shannon Van Sant

As American high schools start their academic year this September, it is expected to be another record year for enrollments by Chinese students. China's booming middle class is growing wealthier, and many parents and students are taking extraordinary steps to get a unique educational experience - even if it means paying a hefty price.

Grace Liu, 17, grew up in Tianjin, a city of 14 million people on China’s east coast. This year she is a junior at a high school in America’s Deep South.

“The [population] here is very small. The people are really nice and we say ‘hi’ to each other even though we don’t know each other. The people here really help me a lot, and the environment here is really good,” said Liu.

Liu is enrolled at the Rabun Gap Nacoochee school in Rabun Gap, a small town in Georgia. She is one of more than 30,000 Chinese at American high schools, many of whom pay tuition of upwards of $50,000 to attend school in the United States. Anthony Sgro, head of the Rabun Gap School, said the number of applications from students in China is way up.

“We’ve always had international students.  The Chinese students didn’t start to arrive until the 1980s. They have come in significantly, significantly great numbers over the last 15 years,” said Sgro.

Last year American schools welcomed 50 times more Chinese students than they did just eight years ago.   

Many are from China’s growing middle class, who want well-rounded educations and an edge in competition for slots at America’s most prestigious universities.  Studying abroad can also mean an escape from the intense competition at schools in China, where rote memorization is common and students have less time for hobbies or sports.

The rapid growth of foreign students has led to schools in even small towns like Rabun feeling the impact. Sgro said the influx has met with some resistance in Rabun.

“That was the argument when the Chinese started coming in large numbers.  ‘Why are we educating our enemies?’ And my response to people around this is the world in which we grew up in is very different from the world these students are growing up in today. When our students open up The Wall Street Journal or watch CBS News at night, they’ll see a write-up about China, and they’ll see a write up about Shanghai, and they’ll know five kids from there. And it brings it home, it helps them understand that it is not but a plane flight away, and that they have to be engaged in what’s going on around them,” said Sgro.

Yvette Yang, 17, said she and her Chinese classmates are part of a new, very global, future.

“What I am thinking is that things have changed, and the world has changed.  People are looking forward, and they are not looking backwards,” said Liu.

The number of international students attending university in the United States is also reaching record numbers, with 800,000 foreign students studying at American colleges in 2012.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
September 07, 2014 9:19 PM
Bring money into this country and pay for overpriced tuition and help local economy, and local people hate you for that. Make sense, of course.

by: William li from: Canada
September 06, 2014 11:39 PM
Oversea Chinese are more partriotic than those stay in China.
Like me, I hated communist when I was in China but after I came to canada, and have stayed ten years, I realize the west is not as free as from west media propaganda. And west is hostile to China.
Now, I suggest my Chinese families and friend come to canada then they will love China more.
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
September 08, 2014 10:18 AM
I'm not sure William Li's opinion is accurate. I am sure Chinese people love China but I'm not sure Chinese ex-pats love the CCP more than when they lived in China. I've met many Chinese ex-pats who hate the CCP and want democracy for China. Mr. Li has posted CCP propaganda on VOA before so it seems he's just a member of the 50 Cent Party. He talks about "Western propaganda" but says nothing about CCP propaganda so it's clear who is paying for his posts.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
September 08, 2014 12:49 AM
I have read your comment interestingly. I agree west society is not always as free as eastern people think about. Yet this is my question that if you mean there is freedom in China at least as much as in America. Or freedom does not always bring about happiness?

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
September 06, 2014 3:25 PM
It is a condmenation of Chinese educational system. In China, even kindergarten teachers accept red packets from parents. Ridiculous. Corruption is rampant.

by: happy dave from: Shanghai
September 06, 2014 2:57 AM
As a recent college grad in 2010, I was unable to find work in the United States and went to China to teach English, where I have been teaching for 3 out of the past 4 years. It was through one of my students who said in class one day that, “Americans are not as free as they think they are;” that I was able to see America clearly for the first time. It hit me hard and I wanted to react to him by telling him of all the corruption, lack of democracy and human rights abuses in China where students even bribe their teachers to receive better treatment. Some teachers at my university drive cars that their American counter parts could not afford. When one considers corruption at this level, what can be left?

China is now challenging all its neighbors with borders disputes. Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea and Vietnam are in China’s crosshairs. And by extension, indirectly challenging the US. The now defunct Fisker Auto company was kept on life support by the Delaware tax payers, which is now owned by a Chinese company. It is time for our government, business leaders and ultimately the American people to step back and take an overall look at this “co-dependency.” This co-dependency just like other relationship co-dependencies will only get worst over time. This cold war(?) will be different from the last one, as it seems China makes everything we need. America is sleep walking into oblivion.
In Response

by: Anonymous
September 07, 2014 9:36 PM
It won't be easy to change their minds when you are an outsider. People are naturally defensive about their own situation when there is little they can do.

by: tom from: chicago
September 05, 2014 10:53 PM
The Chinese are invading Chicago.
Every country is invading America.

by: TonyManero from: Silicon Valley, CA
September 05, 2014 5:51 PM
In the 1980's, manufacturing was outsourced for low prices & higher profits (Barbie dolls cost $4 to make in China and sell for $20 at retail). Consumers became addicted to cheap prices & producers had higher margins from cheap manufacturers. Now, these foreign students pay "full price" and US schools are addicted to the money. Like US kids, many can handle the work, but some are there because they pay their way in and are academically unprepared. At colleges, some or many have inflated records to get in, and the colleges ignore it to keep the money coming in.

by: Kam from: DC
September 05, 2014 3:21 PM
China has a grand strategy to use as many of these students as possible as the eyes and ears for China. The more pro- Chinese nationals in the US, the more opportunities the Chinese gov will have to exploit this to their advantage.
In Response

by: tom from: US
September 05, 2014 7:55 PM
You should be the US. Education Ministry since you are very smart and can see the real problems. Hope the stupids principles of the US schools know your point of view.

by: Anonymous
September 05, 2014 7:06 AM
The World changed,Russia didn't.

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