This story was first written by me for and published on rustwire.com under the title “Midwestern Universities Wooing Chinese Students.” A revised and condensed version is being re-published here on panethos.
Michigan State University has been a steady leader among public universities in the United States for sending its students abroad for a portion of their academic studies. On the flip side, the university along with many others across the country have been the fortunate recipients of a growing influx of international students, particularly undergraduates from China in the past five years. Open Doors 2011 report from the Institute of International Education, lists the 25 universities in the United States with the largest international student population.
China has become the primary source of new international students since 2005, as the nation’s economy has boomed and its citizen’s wealth has grown. Part of the reason for this influx beyond increased wealth is due to the fact that only 18 percent of students are admitted to Chinese universities. The growth in student population from China alone has been substantial enough to warrant Michigan State to open a satellite office in Beijing, China in 2008.
For Michigan State and other schools in Michigan, the rise in the international student population has been fortuitous because it’s taking place at a time where the pool of potential Michigan resident students is starting to decline. As a result, the international students are filling a void. Annual data from Michigan State’s Office for International Students and Scholars shows the meteoric growth in the Chinese student population (undergraduate and graduate) at Michigan State. The greatest proportion of the growth in recent years has been in undergraduate students,rising from just 92 in 2006 to 2,217 in 2010
In the communities surrounding Michigan State’s campus, there has been a noticeable influx of new residents from China, many arriving with a great deal of disposable income. While the university requires all freshmen to live on campus, students are free to live where they choose after that first year. A substantial number of recent newcomers to the United States now reside in many parts of Greater Lansing, not only from China, but also India and several other Asian nations.
Recognizing the growing Chinese student population, a number of commercial businesses located near campus now include Mandarin lettering in addition to English on their signage. Furthermore, some area businesses have been started by enterprising international students. Automatic teller machines on campus and in the surrounding community now offer transactions in numerous languages (in some cases more than eight), including Mandarin.
According to a report from the Association of International Educators, foreign students attending Michigan State University contributed nearly $185 million to Greater Lansing’s economy in 2010, of which almost $90 million was spent on living expenses and dependents. Needless to say, consumer spending like that gets noticed.
Public school districts near Michigan State’s campus have also benefited from the growth in the international student population, as many of these students bring their spouses and/or children with them to the United States. Since Michigan’s funding formula for school districts is based on student head counts, any increase in class attendance is important to a school district’s bottom line.
This author can personally attest to the substantial benefits derived from a more diverse and inclusive community. It can be observed in new friendships, more cultural and religious offerings, dining and recreational options, educational opportunities, travel options, architectural influences, and in the area’s enhanced entrepreneurial spirit. Freshman year at Michigan State, my son’s dormitory roommate was from South Korea. As a result, my son was afforded an amazing opportunity to befriend someone from the opposite side of the planet and learn more about his culture,while sharing the same about America.
Will this student population boomlet from China continue into the foreseeable future? One would imagine so, barring any international disputes or incidents taking place that might sour relations. As a result, collegiate communities throughout the nation could and should be able to reap the cultural, societal, and economic benefits from Chinese and other international student population growth for some time to come. I cannot think of a better way to create friendships, improved global understanding, and build trust between the amazing array of societies and cultures on this planet.