Chinese students boost boarding business in US

Updated: 2013-08-14 07:56

By Caroline Berg in New York and Zhao Xinying and Lei Lei in Beijing (China Daily)

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As more Chinese teenagers go abroad to study, the business of hosting them is booming in the United States - and one education facility in Wisconsin wants to turn a 162-room Hilton hotel into a residence for the young guests.

According to Li Ding, founder of Pullin Education, a New Jersey-based consulting company for Chinese students studying abroad, there are many similar organizations or institutes in the US for international students.

"More and more parents are choosing to send their children to the US during high school, thinking that such a living experience would be helpful for their children to better adapt themselves in college," Li said.

The hotel purchase is being sought by Wisconsin International Academy, an organization backed by Massachusetts-based CERNET, an agency of the Chinese Ministry of Education.

According to the 2012 Overseas Study Development Report by the Center for China and Globalization, an independent, nonprofit think tank in Beijing, China had 78,000 pupils aged 18 or younger studying abroad.

About 20,000 are studying in the US, and their number has been quadrupling annually the last few years, Li said.

Although international students often stay with host families, many parents believe it's better to have a third-party organization to take care of their children.

"Apparently, organizations like the Wisconsin International Academy are witnessing a booming market," he said.

More and more people in China and the US are working for such institutions, taking care of students in their studies and daily lives, Li said.

"In New Jersey, there are more than 10 such institutes. There are more in other states like Massachusetts and California."

The Hilton site has been on the market for five years and the owners do not intend to continue operating the property when the franchise agreement ends in eight months.

The Wisconsin International Academy obtained a purchase agreement from the sellers six months ago, and a local bank will fund the project, said Sun Jian, president of the Wisconsin International Academy and CERNET Education Science & Technology Research Development.

They are waiting for municipal approval for rezoning, scheduled for Aug 26.

"The hotel's location is very good," said Sun. "We have a good chance to get the approval."

Sun said the converted hotel would provide room for 324 students with onsite advisers to help students adjust to life in the US Midwest. About 100 staff will work at the facility.

"Many parents hope to keep in touch with children and their school, and an institute like this could serve as a bridge."

Sun said tuition fees range from $30,000 to $40,000 each year.

Still, some Chinese parents won't buy it.

Jiang Xinyuan, 45, in Hubei province, who plans to send his high school daughter to study in the US, said he prefers that she stay with a host family instead of such boarding institutes. "I hope my daughter can experience more in the US, and living in an enclosed boarding institute like this may not be good for her," he said.

"By comparison, living with a local family will be more helpful. Besides, the tuition fees are too expensive," he said.

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Yan Ran contributed to this story