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Recruiting Intelligence

More Qualified Chinese Students On Their Way: Here's Why

We listened with great interest to a one hour webinar by Chris Boehner, Executive Director of Varicant, "Developing a China Strategy" made available by the boarding school organization SSATB (Slides only: click here). Chris presented the complex picture of the current Chinese environment with a rapidly growing middle and wealthy upper class. During the last four years, Chinese students at U.S. private schools have more than quadrupled. This growth trend is supported by the size of the population and the strong wealth creation in China. Today, China has a group of one million millionaires with a relatively young average age of 39. This wealth group is growing rapidly. A very large majority (85%) express an interest in sending their children out of the country for their education. And 30% of those families express an interest in sending their children to the U.S. for that education. And then there is this: 65% of those U.S. bound families want that foreign education to start with a U.S. private boarding school. When you do the simple "back of the napkin" calculation (see Graph 1) you get the future potential of 170,000 additional international K-12 students from China's wealthy economic upper class. Today, there are roughly 24,000 Chinese private boarding school students in the U.S. So we are looking at a growth factor of 7x (see Graph 2). Oh, and Vericant notes that China is adding 61,000 new millionaires every year (6% growth rate). This pool would not include families with more modest means who often pool resources, sell apartments and liquidate savings to fund their child's education. Given the history of the past several years, Vericant's predictions seem to be more than wishful thinking. Their data suggests a very real international student enrollment pool. And, for the most part, those international students will have excellent English skills and will have adjusted to the American culture having studied at U.S. private high schools.

Conclusion: Reaching Chinese parents will be a worthwhile recruiting and investment area for Western education institutions for years to come. This, despite increased domestic competition and challenging Chinese demographic trends with a rapidly declining younger generation due to the one-child-policy-generation that is now entering parenthood (see Intead Insight "How Will Dramatic Shifts in Chinese Demographics Impact Future Student Enrollment in the U.S.").

Graph 1

The calculation takes the group of one million millionaires and assumes 85% want their child educated outside of China. Of those, 30% have a strong interest in a U.S. education. Of that group, 260,000 potential students, 65% want to start the education at the high school level. The result is roughly 170,000 potential international students entering the U.S. market through boarding high schools (or lower grade boarding schools). In some cases, these families with younger children seek opportunities to relocate one or both parents to the U.S. as well.

Graph 2

Sources: Tabs diversity report.
Topics: Insights