University Rankings and the Shortage of Chinese International Students

For the first time since 2010, the number of Chinese international students in the US have dropped. According to Statista, the number of Chinese students attending US universities dropped from 372,532 to 317,299 students. More Chinese international students left the US or graduated than the ones that enrolled to US universities in 2021. This is troubling universities across the US who highly rely on international students to finance their university budget.

We can see the significant decline of international Chinese students in the US in 2020/21 in a graph by Statista

Essential Revenue from Chinese International students

2010, when Chinese students started attending US universities in large numbers, the education budget started declining. Education Data

US universities are expense, even for US citizens. The average yearly tuition for public universities is around $10,000 and $38,000 for private universities in 2022. Unlike international students however, most US citizens receive scholarships and financial aid. In the end, they only pay fraction of the total costs. International students, on the other hand, lack government funding and have to contest with highly competitive public scholarships to cover their tuition. Those without financial aid and scholarships pay north of $100,000 annual when attending a private university. This doesn’t account for their meal plans, dorm costs, and living expenses.

To understand why international student revenue is important, you have to understand how US universities are funded. US universities are funded by the US government with its education budget. And that education has been on the decline since 2010, reaching an all-time low in 2020. Although the funding from the government declined, the cost to maintain and operate universities have increased. Meanwhile, students expect better facilities and services. To raise enough funding to stay relevant, universities rely heavily on international student tuition to cover the costs of the university. And Chinese international students make up 50% of the international student population studying in universities in the US.

The main reason for this decline is because of the covid-19 pandemic. Not only because of the closed borders and the pandemic lockdowns, but also the negative resentment towards Chinese people. News about cases of violence and racism towards Chinese people have gone viral in China. Chinese media spread the news of these cases quite frequently in China, making Chinese citizens to reconsider going to the US. It seems unlikely that Chinese international students will rise over the next few years.

Since Chinese international students make up majority of the international student population, universities need more funding to run their universities. They cannot rely on Chinese international students because of the declining admissions. This might’ve effected the US government’s decision to up their education budget. As of 2022, the US Department of Education received a 41% increase in their education budget, to 104 billion dollars. It is a temporary solution to the lack of international students but another alternative is marketing their universities towards India. Indian international student population in the US is second only to China. We will see soon if Indian international students will be able to supersede the number of Chinese International students in 2022.



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