China has been the number one contributor of international students at UT for the past four years, with Chinese international students comprising 23 percent of all international students at UT during the 2014-2015 school year, according to UT’s International Student and Scholar Services.
There are many top-tier colleges in China, such as Beijing University, but they are extremely competitive to get into, according to UT professor Huaiyin Li, director of the Center for East Asian Studies. Chinese parents look to colleges in the U.S. because second and third tier schools in China have decreased in quality because of university expansion efforts, Li said.
“You can build more campuses and recruit more students, but the quality of faculty cannot catch up,” Li said. “Ordinary institutions cannot compete with U.S. colleges, so why not go abroad?”
As a result, Chinese students are looking toward universities such as UT that combine quality with affordability, according to Li.
There are also benefits of the American application system, said Jiayi Sun, journalism freshman and Chinese international student.
“In China, colleges decide if they want you based only on the scores of one exam called the Gaokao,” Sun said. “But for American colleges you actually need to show your personality and your talents, which are oftentimes more important than test scores.”
While the benefits of U.S. universities have been widely established, actually attending a U.S. college is a matter of financial preparation, according to Li.
“Many parents will buy a number of apartment units,” Li said. “One will be for self-use and the second or third are used to sell or rent. After this is done, parents will have more than enough assets to educate their children.”
Madeline Hsu, Asian American studies associate professor, said it is difficult to make a sweeping generalization that the American college system is better than China’s, but there is a certain prestige of getting degrees in the U.S.
“In 2009 I was at a conference at Beijing University, and I was told that about 50 percent of its graduates went to go study abroad,” Hsu said.
The point of studying in America is not just about getting a foreign degree, Li said.
“Chinese students learn how to speak and communicate in English,” Li said. “It’s about the entire cultural background in which you get educated.”