People's Daily Tonight (3/24/2018 Sat.)
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Commentary: Studying abroad costs more than just money


Chinese international students have become the biggest demographic among foreign exchange students in the US.  Unfortunately, many of their parents are unaware of what the real expenses are when comes to sending their child to America for the promise of a better education.

The Institute of International Education reported that 42 percent of exchange students enrolled at US high schools are from China. And among the Chinese students, 94 percent attend private schools.

Chinese parents need to have realistic expectations when it comes to sending their children abroad, rather than assuming the results will automatically lead to positive outcomes.

In 2016, 9.4 million Chinese students sat for the Gaokao, China’s national college entrance exam.  It is obvious how much pressure China’s high school students endure every year.

China’s rapidly developing economy has inspired Chinese parents to come up with a second path for their child’s education, instead of having them compete with millions of other students for limited admission spots at China’s higher learning institutions. 


According to one international education service provider, the cost of sending a child to a US high school is between $45,000 to $70,000 annually. According to recent data from Xinhua News Agency, China’s Gross National Income (GNI) is $8,260.

The cost of an American education at a top school is higher than what most families in China earn annually, which does not prevent them from making sure their child receives a foreign education. 

Students from wealthy families have an advantage over their peers from lower economic backgrounds.  For families who can afford it, a private school education offers an arena with fewer competitors.

The acceptance rate for Chinese students at top-ranked universities is up, but when compared with the number of Chinese international students, only a few achieve their original goal.

For those who accepted to a top-ranked college, some had to move to the US at the age of 14 and live with a host family while supervised by education agencies. It’s not easy to be a young teenager living and studying abroad without immediate family contact.

A consultant from an international education agency based in Los Angeles, California, said recently three Chinese students were sent home after attempting suicide.

Meanwhile, 12 percent face suspension due to poor academic performance or inappropriate behavior, and some even risk developing Autism due to culture shock and language barriers.

In 2015, three Chinese high school students in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley tortured a Chinese classmate for several hours.  The three students were arrested and sentenced to jail.

A lack of communication with their parents in China could be the biggest factor influencing reckless or suicidal behavior among exchange students.

Families need to create a risk management plan before sending their child to a foreign country to be prepared if something unfortunate happens.

But more importantly, parents should communicate with their children more often to understand their goals and find out what they really want out of life instead of assuming they know what is best for their child.

(Article by Terry Guanlin Li; audio produced by Chi Jingyi, Liang Peiyu)