U.S. College Admissions and Hate Crimes Against Chinese

HARDWICK – The numbers of Chinese students coming to U.S. colleges grew from 1,000 in the 1970s to 370,000 in 2019.  Chinese students added $15 billion dollars to the U.S. economy in 2018.

Working on the ground in China is where I learned about how the Chinese chose the USA for their child’s education. One of my first observations about the Chinese when first working in China (2009), was that the Chinese love Americans and America: food, music, clothes, education — everything American.

When consulting with a small Chinese company that wanted two Americans to join them to bring the U.S. Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum into their public schools, we traveled all over China from Beijing from 2009 to 2014. We met with Chinese families from Harbin to Shenzhen, from Chandu to Shanghai.

In 2015, Xi Jinping took all Western education out of the public schools (APs, IBs). From then until the COVID-19 outbreak, my work in China was consulting with start-up Chinese college admissions businesses who send Chinese students to the USA.

Consulting and writing U.S. college admissions advice columns for the China Daily and a Sina.com website meant meeting with parents in large and small groups, as well as individual families looking for U.S. college advise. Parents chose small companies, usually someone they knew or from a personal reference of a colleague or friend.

My first realization was that coming to the USA for education is based on family income and their love of the USA. Secondly, parents had to be rich to have the dream.

When Chinese families started making money, they began sending their three- and four-year-olds to English classes. In those early days of new family wealth, parents sent their high school graduate to Australia for an English-language university.

As private incomes continued to rise, they next sent their child to the United Kingdom for university. And when they started getting really rich, America was the only way to go! That fast growth in Chinese students coming to the USA for college is well-documented by “Open Doors,” the “Institute of International Education.” By 2015, U.S. college applications were soon extended to prep schools and then any high school opportunities they could find for eight years of an American education.  

During my early days in China (2009 and 2010), parents typically asked me, “When should I let my daughter go to America … after two years of university in China?” A few years later I was asked, “Where can I send my son to a U.S. high school?” By 2017, parents asked, “Where’s a good seventh grade for my child in the USA?”

Many of us assumed that the Chinese wanted a U.S. education for their child because they wanted only the best for their one child. As I learned more about the Chinese, though, and noticed that they rank everything from colleges to shoes and luggage to haircuts and cars, “the best” is determined by cost. And U.S. education costs the very most, so it must be the best.

Sorry, fellow Americans, not even US News and World Report measures “best” more accurately than the cost – to mainland Chinese families.

Even as the Chinese want the best for their child, still, the safety of their one child counts more than anything else in the world, including a top education. I was once asked from a CEO of a large company, “Why do Americans shoot their children?” Add America’s latest wave of Asian hate crimes to our global picture and Americans have a lot of work to do to bring international students back.

Chinese students are good for our economy. They are good, too, for our American students to learn what a hard-working student looks like, to have Asian student voices contributing to classroom discussions, to locker rooms, the music halls and our U.S. dormitories. International students on U.S. college campuses, including the Asians, are a worthy cause.