US public high schools lure Chinese students

Updated: 2013-07-03 11:26

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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A group of US public high school representatives is gearing up for a "brand promotion" trip to China this summer with the mission to change the minds of Chinese parents and potential students who think that enrolling in expensive private schools in the US is the only way to go.

"I am flying out to China on July 19," Lesley O'Connor, principal of San Luis Obispo High School in California, told China Daily. "We will be in various cities during the ten-day trip, and I am sure that I will meet many wonderful parents and potential students." O'Connor will make stops in Guangzhou, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

"We are a public school who sees great value in cultural exchanges and bringing diversity to our school is important in the 21st century," he continued. "We pride ourselves in having a high performing, safe, college-bound school on the central coast of California."

Other public high schools represented on the trip to vie for potential Chinese students include: Kokomo High School of Indiana, New York State's Berne-Knox-Westerlo Secondary, Oak Park High School in California and Natick High in Massachusetts.

O'Connor said 25 to 30 foreign students attend San Luis Obispo each year, and has "a handful of second and third generation Chinese students attending currently".

He expects to attract more young applicants from the Chinese mainland for this opportunity.

"The Chinese students will be safe, have access to challenging and rigorous schoolwork, and have the chance to experience a myriad of life-changing ideas," he said.

Kevin Buchanan, principal of Oak Park, told China Daily his school has been trying to strengthen it connection with Chinese students through two recent initiatives: he attended an education exchange event held in Shanghai in April, where he had good talks with officials from the Shanghai Education Commission, and his school has an on-going international student project which hosts foreign students for a year at a time.

"We used to have students from countries like Italy, Germany, and Japan, but now we expect more students from the Chinese mainland," he said, adding that the coursework was attractive because it was geared toward US universities.

"Today, many parents are supportive of their children's aspirations to study abroad at a younger age, because it makes it much easier for them to enroll in a good American university," said Zhang Meng, a senior manager at CACDIY International, a Beijing-based organization that helps Chinese arrange to study abroad.

The economic recession might be a bump for some American students' plans to study abroad, but not, obviously, for those Chinese youth who are eager to study in the best American universities, he said, adding that both private and public US high schools are eager to lure more Chinese students for the financial benefit of tuitions.

According to China Economic Weekly, international students contribute more than $20 billion to the US economy per year, with more than $4.4 billion of it from Chinese students.

It also said that nearly 200,000 Chinese high school graduates chose to study abroad in 2013, and the number has been annually growing by 20 to 30 percent over the past decade.

(China Daily USA 07/03/2013 page2)