Nearly 600,000 foreign undergraduate students now study at US colleges and universities, some 165,000 of them from China, the total from China grew by nearly 30 percent in 2009/2010, with a percentage rise in double digits every year since, according to the Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors” report, funded by the U.S. Department of State.
UC Berkeley’s 2015 international students’ GPA’s, and SAT and ACT test scores were competitive with those of California and out-of-state residents, according to a spokeswoman from the Student Affairs Communication office. Average admission SAT scores were 2124 for California and international students, 2171 for out-of-state residents.
The Problem of Cheating
But colleagues of mine still teaching say that the quality of Chinese students is deteriorating. Schlafly reports that about 8,000 Chinese students were expelled last year for poor academic performance or for cheating. An executive from the WholeRen company that caters to such students admits that the students used Jo be considered “top-notch”; but over the past five years they have gained a reputation as wealthy kids who cheat.
The Wall Street Journal recently acquired data on cheating from 14 public universities around the country and found that students from China were reported to be cheating at five times the rate of American students. Faculty contacted by Journal reporters often singled out Chinese students. “Cheating among Chinese students, especially those with poor language skills, is a huge problem,” said Beth Mitchneck, a University of Arizona professor of geography and development.
Maseratis and Lamborghinis
The wealth of the Chinese who come to the United States to buy real estate and study (including high school students) has been widely reported. An indication comes from sales data at luxury car dealers. Chinese students’ car purchases accounted for 10 to 20 percent of a luxury car dealer’s entire sales near Michigan State in East Lansing, 8 percent of luxury car sales near the University of Oregon at Eugene, and 5 percent near the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The 12,000 Chinese students (out of 44,000 total foreign students) attending the dozens of colleges in the Boston area are often seen driving Maseratis, Lamborghinis, and Range Rovers, according to Schlafly’s report.
Boston University, where international students make up 24 percent of the student body, has a “strong” and longer than usual history of welcoming international students, says Anne Corriveau, Senior Associate Director of the Office of International Admissions
At public colleges, administrators see a financial benefit from the higher out-of-state tuition rates that international students pay. While UC Berkeley maintains that scores for admission of international students are competitive, Schlafly claims that 4,500 California students were denied entry to the state’s public colleges in favor of out-of-state and foreign students with lower SAT scores. Foreign students pay two to three times the rates for in-state American students, which makes up for shrinking subsidies from state governments.
While overall SAT scores may be on par, international students’ scores in the critical reading and writing portions may lag, says Carriveau. She admits that the Toefl (Test of English as a Foreign Language) often does not indicate a proficiency that is adequate for passing a freshman writing course. Agencies in China and other places guide families through the application process, even writing essays for students. Many pass the Toefl test by memorization. Such students are accommodated with extra resources and special classes at Boston University, and elsewhere.
The Pressure on Teachers
College administrators, however, are also placing the burden on professors, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in the recent article, “Colleges Help the Faculty Adapt Teaching for Foreign Students.” Iowa State University communications professor Jay Newell, for example, adapted after observing a group of disengaged Chinese students and realizing that they could not understand his lectures because, of course, they were in English. Newell told the Chronicle, “My job is to make sure that students learn this stuff and understand it and engage with it.” He saw the foreign students’ falling behind as being his “’problem as much as it was theirs.’”
But it seems to be getting worse. Rather than insisting that Chinese students perform at the same level as other students, our universities are catering to them. This includes my old workplace, Emory, where a 2014 news article applauded professors who took lessons in Mandarin. One is Italian lecturer Simona Muratore who enrolled in the free language classes offered on campus after she found she could not communicate in either English or Italian with the growing number of Chinese students in her Italian language class.
Economics professor Frank Maddox, who also teaches on Emory’s Oxford campus, was preparing to leave for a fall sabbatical in Beijing to study “business culture and central banking,” as well as to participate in a seven-week language immersion course. After teaching an intermediate microeconomics course in the fall 2010 semester, in which over half of his students were Chinese, he had learned Mandarin well enough to drop phrases into his lectures. But he wanted to get to the point where he could “’casually chat with’” and “’engage’” his students.
International students do indeed bring both diversity and new perspectives into the classroom. But while American students are encouraged to study abroad and learn about foreign cultures and languages, students from China are being catered to here by professors and administrators. Faculty time previously spent on scholarly research is being used for training to “engage” a certain ethnic segment of the student body. Time previously spent with American students is spent on bringing international students up to speed. Classroom discussions and lessons have to be slowed down for international students. Our students stand to lose more than they gain as their universities cater increasingly to international students.