Multimedia Initiative Helps Chinese Students Study in the USA

By Jeffrey Thomas
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - Several high-ranking U.S. officials recently visited China to extend a welcoming hand to Chinese students who want to study in the United States and to express their support for educational exchange.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Assistant Secretary of State Dina Habib Powell voiced support for educational exchange during their trip to East Asia in mid-November, leading the first ever delegation of U.S. college and university presidents as part of the International Education Week.

Spellings spoke of the benefits of international student exchange: “In the fields of both academic and scientific research, foreign students contribute tremendously and greatly enrich our universities,” she said. “As a nation, we understand the value of international exchange. Our doors are open to you and other students who seek the benefits our higher education system has to offer.”

Powell, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, described her delegation’s mission as twofold: “First, we want to bring the message that Chinese students are welcome in the United States; second, we want to encourage more American students to study in China,” she said in remarks to students at Beijing Normal University on November 16.


On a separate trip, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez recently announced an initiative to help Chinese students who want to study in the United States by providing them more information about U.S. education in Chinese.

“We want Chinese students to know that America welcomes them,” Gutierrez said November 15 in Shanghai while introducing a new two-part Mandarin-language television program featuring Chinese students talking about their experiences with U.S. higher education.

Gutierrez noted that the number of Chinese students studying in U.S. universities has grown from approximately 11,000 two decades ago to nearly 63,000 today. “We'd like to see that number continue to grow and the level of educational exchange continue to increase,” he said.

The initiative was developed by the Department of Commerce, in conjunction with the Department of State and the Department of Education.

A highlight of the initiative is a customized Internet “landing page” in Chinese that debuted November 17. The page, Liu Xue USA ("Overseas Study in the USA"), provides information including the latest program schedules and resources about studying in the United States.

The television program aired November 18 on local channels in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

“We plan to bring this program to other nations, but we are starting here first. This is a testament to the strong bond between our nations and the importance we place on educating our young people to participate in the global marketplace,” Gutierrez said.

As part of the initiative, DVDs of the television programs will be distributed at education fairs as well as through the 47 U.S. education advisory centers across China.

The initiative is a result of the new partnership Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice outlined at the January 2006 University Presidents Summit on International Education. The initiative calls for the U.S. government to take a more active role in promoting American higher education internationally. (See related article.)


Undergraduate and graduate admissions policies and practices in the United States vary widely, and there is no central government policy-making body. During her trip to East Asia, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings cited the decentralization of the U.S. system of higher education as one of its greatest strengths, for it empowers students with a wide range of options. “It's a system that encourages innovation and adapts to meet many different needs,” she said during a speech in Japan November 13.

The decentralized system, however, can be confusing to international students.  International graduate-student enrollment at U.S. universities surged this year, according to a new study by the Council of Graduate Schools, and first-time enrollment by Chinese graduates showed a 20 percent rate of increase exceeded only by graduates from India. (See related article.)

Interest in a U.S. education continues to grow among Chinese students, according to Katherine Fung-Surya, the International Institute of Education’s director in China. “About 75 [percent] to 80 percent of mainland Chinese students are interested in graduate programs,” Fung-Surya told USINFO in an e-mail interview.

“In FY [Fiscal Year] 06, the student visa issuance rate in China was up by 37.6 percent, and we strongly believe that the trend is on the rise,” she said. 

Open Doors 2006, an annual report on international academic mobility by the International Institute of Education (IIE), shows that the total number of students from mainland China increased slightly in 2005-2006 over the previous year to 62,582, making mainland China the second–leading place of origin for international students enrolled in U.S. higher education. In addition, enrollment from Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, increased 9.3 percent to 7,849.

Forty-two percent of U.S. institutions reported an increase in the number of students from China enrolled, while 14 percent reported a decrease, and the rest reported level enrollments, according to the IIE report.

“Educational advisers … play a vital role in assisting prospective students and their parents as they seek information and try to identify the best suitable schools,” Fung-Surya said. 

For information on studying in the United States, see the State Department’s EducationUSA Web site. Information on visa procedures and traveling to the United States is available at and in the State Department electronic journal See You in the U.S.A.

Texts and transcripts from the trip of the U.S. higher education delegation to Asia are available on the State Department Web site.