An investment in foreign potential

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February 15, 2011

12:00 AM

In today’s world of consumer products, it seems that everything comes from China. Now a new item is starting to arrive from China at colleges all over the United States: brochures depicting a Chinese student’s entire life. These brochures are arriving because of the marketing several U.S. liberal arts colleges have done in China to attract new students. A recent New York Times article discusses the effects of this technique.

The booming economic situation in China allows more and more students to pay full tuition. This creates a problem for admissions departments at U.S. colleges: Several hundred applicants are forced to apply for a limited number of spots. Admissions officers sort through applications using several processes, including parsing essays to determine whether or not the essay was written by a student. Moreover it is difficult for admissions officers to distinguish between Chinese students by their SAT math scores because many of them are perfect.

The obvious reason for college recruitment from China is money. If Chinese students are pay full tuition, more money is left for American or other foreign students who cannot, or can be used by the college to fund more programs for all students. However, there are several other reasons for colleges to recruit foreign students, including increasing student body diversity, bringing new ideas into the academic community, and providing students from other countries with the American higher education experience. College recruitment in countries such as China also raises questions about admissions for American colleges: Does accepting more students from China take spots away from American students who apply to the same college? The answer is no, because most colleges reserve seperate admission spots for foreign and domestic students. However, the answer to this question can also get a bit more complicated. Several colleges are “need-blind” when considering American applicants, but are “need-aware” for foreign students. This means that Chinese students who are able to afford full tuition have an edge over those who are not, but students who cannot pay full tuition are not rejected for this reason. There are also many scholarships for Chinese students who cannot pay full tuition.

Now the question is: what does all this mean for the College William and Mary? Will our admissions office start recruiting high school students in China, and how will this affect the current student body? I would then have to ask, why it matters where a student comes from, as long as he or she wants to be here and cares about maintaining the standards of excellence which have been? The College already offers study abroad programs in China, and allows for students at Chinese universities to spend time at the College, so would recruiting Chinese students to attend the College as freshmen be that much different? I don’t think so.

I do, however, disagree with reserving spots specifically for foreign students or students from China. All students, no matter their background or ability to pay full tuition, should be given the same chance for admission to the College. While diversity is important, it is not so important that applicants should be rejected simply because they do not fit into a quota. Regardless college recruitment in China has opened new doorways of communication with China to create a more dynamic academic community.

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