By Jingmin Feng
Lei Qin is a second-year Chinese graduate student at Emerson College. It took her a whole night to fill out six online non-immigrant visa applications. Her relatives in China will come to Boston in May to attend her commencement as well as travel around America.
“My commencement is really a good excuse for them to apply visa and not get rejected,” said Qin.
These are not the first Chinese visitors for Qin. Last summer, Qin’s boyfriend in France had visited her once and she spent $9,800 during their nationwide trip. This year, she estimated that her family’s trip would at least cost $30,000.
“We Chinese students really make a great contribution to America.” laughed Qin.
Nowadays, with more Chinese students coming to the U.S, their families get more chances to travel overseas.
“Comparing to the uncertainty and restriction of tour group with a bunch of strangers, traveling with their kids would be more comfortable.” said Lin Zhou, the sales manager in Sunshine Travel Agency located in Chinatown.
Zhou has witnessed this growth. She has been working at this company for three years. She remembered that when she first came here, most of the customers were tour groups from Mainland China. But since last year, they are having more individual customers, usually Chinese students coming with their parents. Besides, they just started creating some small tour groups, usually one to six tourists, to meet the need for family visits.
“There was once a mother who came here for her daughter’s interview at a graduate school of Harvard University and some other universities around,” said Zhou. “They hired our driver and tour guide and spent seven days in the Greater Boston area.”
Although they don’t have specific data to show this trend, Zhou said based on her experience, she is pretty sure about the connection between the increase of Chinese students and the increase of her tourism business.
“Boston is famous for its numerous universities and the increase of Chinese students would of course bring into a new market,” said Zhou. “Tourism is one of them.”
Contribution from Tuition and Fees
The Chinese Embassy in Washington reports there were about 89,000 Chinese students in the United States in 2009 and they paid about $2 billion in tuition nationwide. In 2012, the number of Chinese students increased to 194,029, and the total amount of tuition must have grown together.
In fact, in the 2011-2012 academic year, net contribution to the U.S economy by foreign students and their families is almost $22 billion, including tuition and fees and living expenses, according to the Institution of International Education. Since 23 percent of foreign students are from China, the economic contribution of Chinese students would be around $5 billion.
“At the end of the day, education is business.” said Bill Anderson, professor from Emerson College. Anderson teaches Brand Management at Emerson where 60 percent of the graduate students in the Marketing program are international students, he said.
He believes that money is one important concern for the college in its decision to recruit more Chinese students.
“Emerson is just like every other higher education institution that has made huge financial commitment.” said Anderson. He explained the college is building a new L.A. campus as well as investing in other buildings. “They have their financial goal so they have to have enough students with enough money.”
Richard Doherty, president of Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) mentioned that private colleges charge the same tuition to its students, Chinese students usually have their parents pay for it. Many American students, he noted, would get financial aid from the school to cover tuition costs.
Siwen Lu is a graduate student in the College of Professional Study in Northeastern University. In addition to her tuition, she also paid out-of-pocket for her language class.
Lu said when she first applied the graduate school of Northeastern, the admission office thought that her language skills didn’t meet their lowest requirement and required her to take the language class first until her TOEFL score was high enough.
So, she said she spent $18,000 on the eight-month Global Pathway program, a language class provided to students who want to be enrolled by Northeastern University. Lu said that among the 15 students in her class, there were only one or two students who were not Chinese. Most of her classmates were preparing to further their education in graduate school.
“Our teachers are very good,” Lu said. “We had some academic study, like case study, and we learned a lot of American culture. But I still don’t think what we learned in that eight months was worth so much money. After all, anyone who stays in this country for eight months could make a lot of improvements.”
Contributions from Living Expenses
In the meantime, some real estate companies see this rapid growth of Chinese students and they started making apartment plans for the Chinese students. Investment Property Specialists (IPS) is one of those companies.
“I definitely believe that our house plan would provide Chinese students a good place to live,” said Lauri Ragsdale, from the Business Development Department of IPS.
Ragsdale said that she went to a workshop named “Understanding the Chinese International Students in Massachusetts” held by Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism at the end of 2012. In that workshop, she learned that the Institute of International Education reported that there were 38,698 Chinese students in Massachusetts in the 2010-2011 academic year, a 9.6 percent increase from 2009-2010. And that number is still increasing.
“When I saw those numbers, I realized that this is a very good opportunity for us because these Chinese students need a good place to live and that is what we can provide,” said Ragsdale. She said that they’ve started doing some research about this plan at the beginning of this year, like determining the areas in Boston most Chinese students live and their average monthly rent.
“Although the plan is still under research, I can say that our housing plan would definitely work both for the Chinese students and for our company.” Ragsdale said.