In the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis, many American public universities attempted to offset budget cuts by enrolling greater numbers of Chinese undergraduate students, almost all of whom pay full tuition. Chinese student enrollment on US campuses boomed, and their spending—including both tuition and living expenses—more than tripled between 2010 and 2017. In recent years, growth in enrollment has declined from a peak of nearly 30% to just 6.8% for the 2016/2017 academic year. These recent Chinese arrivals have also created new frictions. American politicians have accused them of acting as agents of the Chinese government, and some public universities have capped international enrollment under pressure from domestic students who feel rising competitive pressures.
Sources: Department of Commerce, National Travel and Tourism Office; Institute of International Education, Open Doors 2017
Notes: Data on spending and arrivals include all students from mainland China entering the United States on an education-related visa (primary, secondary, tertiary, and vocational education). All data points aside from total spending and arrivals are from the years 2016-2017. Arrivals is an imperfect proxy for total Chinese students in the United States during a given year, as it double-counts those who enter the country twice and doesn’t count those who remain in the United States the entire year. These two effects, however, will partially offset one another.