The following is a response from the University of Minnesota to John Pomfret’s article, “Chinese cash at American colleges is a massive problem.”
John Pomfret extrapolates from inaccurate data points and individual experiences to stereotype institutions and the students enrolled. Accurate facts and a broader picture are needed.
Pomfret incorrectly notes that in 2007, the University of Minnesota had only 150 students from China. In 2007, 762 students from China studied at the U of M, the vast majority at the graduate and professional degree level. In fact, the university has enrolled more than 150 Chinese students for five decades and is clearly not new to hosting Chinese students.
The University of Minnesota made a commitment to recruit undergraduate students internationally in 2007 when the number of international undergraduates at the U of M was near an all-time low. The decision to increase our international population was based on the educational impact of bringing the world to campus. To be a world-class institution requires enrolling students from around the world, and our domestic students were missing out on opportunities to learn with and from students from cultures and backgrounds outside of the United States. Our recruiting staff make visits all over the world, always with the goal to diversify our international student population — traveling to Europe, the Middle East, Latin and South America, and more than eight countries in Asia.
And, yes, we are active in promoting educational opportunities in China. The story of how this developed is different from what Pomfret’s article suggests. The University of Minnesota is proud of our long history with China, starting in 1914 with the enrollment of the first students from China. Our China Center was founded in 1979, just after China reopened to the West. We launched a China Office in Beijing in 2009. This long history and direct personal contact with staff and alumni in China has helped to encourage and support students enrolling at the University of Minnesota.
Like many large, public universities in the U.S., our largest group of international students is from China. These are highly qualified students who pass entrance exams and language proficiency tests, competing against thousands of other applicants to attend the U of M. To leave this out of your story is disrespectful to those enrolling and to the institutions that host them.
As the world economy and politics change, so does the population of international students coming to the U.S. In the 1980s, students from Iran made up our biggest population of international students. As our international population changes, one thing won’t: The University of Minnesota will continue to enroll the best and brightest from around the world, and we will continue to strive to be an inclusive and internationally engaged campus.