On academia’s exploitation of Chinese international students

While campaigning for the upcoming presidential election, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric raises questions of whether an unconscious bias has developed against Chinese people due to China’s rising influence in American trade. This is especially shown through the growing number of Chinese international students in colleges and how their wealth is seemingly endless in comparison to local students. Yet, American trade influence is actually being bolstered in part through Chinese international students paying the full tuition costs for American universities and colleges. As a result of American universities focusing on financial gains, Chinese international students are not getting the full college experience due to a lack of language support and cultural integration programs.

Here at UCR, there is a perceptible number of international and education visa students. This student group has a strong number of Taiwanese and Chinese students the very group that Trump has strongly blamed America’s trade problems on. For simplification, let’s call this group Chinese international students instead of the more common parachute kids moniker. These students face a wide range of problems already including low English literacy hidden by fake college applications, little to nonexistent parental guidance and high debt, entering college via either high school or as an actual international student and skewed English Learning programs toward Spanish speakers. Despite these students oftentimes paying the university’s full price because they’re ineligible for FAFSA, there’s been a lack of social and academic resources for them. In other words, even if these students have a large stake in the university through tuition, they are not represented as they should be in proportion to their educational investments.

Language difficulties are now a common issue for Chinese international students. With UCR’s immediate problem of underprepared students in English literacy and writing skills, it’s questionable if English literacy standards are lowered for Chinese international students in favor of their tuition money. Furthermore, Chinese international students are not being set up for success when universities focus on financial gain and do not offer either more social and academic adjustment services or stricter admissions policies in return. Experiences like that of UCSB Professor Erin Khue Ninh’s, whose university essentially suggested that dumbing down aspects of the curriculum was the best way to ensure international students understand the material, emphasizes schools’ monetary focus instead of on improving academia to match students’ needs.

Because the acceptance system is not strict enough, this allows for Chinese international students to come in underprepared and continue the stereotype that all Chinese international students paid their way into American colleges instead of getting in through merit. It perpetuates the myth that Chinese people are liars and cheats and indirectly links all Asian Americans.

Additionally, media perception has contributed to this lack of representation for Chinese international students. Incidences like the famous mini-Mexico border wall placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalk incites the idea that all, if not the majority, of undocumented people are Latino. Although the number of Asians under undocumented status is rising, the public knows very little about how Asians are just as exploited as Latinos and African-Americans.

Although America’s liberal arts schooling offers more desirable soft skills than China’s, their emphasis on fulfilling parents’ overbearing expectations instead of their well-being indicate psychological issues caused by living away from family in a foreign country. If local students are already unsure of their career goals, it must be worse trying to plan a career in a country you will have to leave shortly. It’s questionable why there’s a scarcity of publicly known research for Chinese international students in particular despite international students arguably being the most exploited out of all the different student groups.

It’s quite apparent that colleges’ acceptance of more international students creates a generation of financially exploited youth lacking a meaningful and enriching college experience. Instead of allowing more international students in exchange of accepting fewer local students, colleges should be working toward getting policies passed which would make college more affordable for local students. Even if that means getting more education taxes passed in order to remove student loan debt, that’s better than merely using international students’ fees as a growing solution to cover up institutional finance problems.

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