Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor for international education and development, recently led a delegation from Appalachian to visit the Chinese high schools. Members of the delegation were Karen Binger, assistant director of admissions in charge of international student admissions, and Dr. Xiaorong Shao, a faculty member in Belk Library and Information Commons who co-chairs the international student recruitment, retention and alumni services committee of the university’s International Education Council.
During the two-week visit, the delegation visited 15 high schools in seven provinces and met with school administrators, English teachers, students and parents. The delegation also met with education administrators at the school district levels.
Binger said the recruiting trip to China was quite promising. “I was impressed with the caliber of students we met,” she said. “Students asked us insightful questions in English about applying, test scores, campus life and costs of attending Appalachian. Since competition for entrance into Chinese universities is so fierce, more students in China are considering studying abroad and that’s where we came in.”
“The goal of this visit was to put Appalachian’s name in the minds of educators, parents and students. We were very successful in achieving this goal,” Lutabingwa said. “We provided each school with a plaque which they will display in a prominent location at the schools to remind administrators, teachers, students and parents of a special relationship each school has with Appalachian.” Additionally, each school received an Appalachian banner, which will be hung inside the school building.
Shao said that test scores and rankings are of a high importance to students and parents in China and that students at all levels study very hard to get higher scores. “Today the competition seems to have become fierce and the pressure of getting high scores and admission to more prestigious universities is not only on the students, but their parents too compared to 30 years ago when I was attending high school in China,” she said. “The enrollments to the Chinese colleges and universities have expanded rapidly since the paid system was introduced in 1997. In addition, today’s high school graduates have more options than 30 years ago such as going to study abroad.”
Prior to 1997, only top-scoring students on China’s admissions test were admitted to college and their education was heavily subsidized by the government, Shao explained. As the country has worked to provide more access to higher education, a paid system was introduced, expanding college access to those who could afford it, not just those whose test scores were the highest.
Part of Appalachian’s strategy to recruiting in China will be to conduct short-term training programs in Boone for Chinese English teachers and educational administrators. Appalachian will also send some of its faculty members to China to conduct workshops and seminars on new teaching approaches, Lutabingwa explained.
Appalachian will conduct the first two-week training in Boone for 10 educational administrators from Tianjin in April 2013 and another training for a group of 27 English teachers in July 2013. “These efforts will help keep Appalachian’s name in the minds of Chinese educators. Every student from the Chinese partner school who is interested in studying abroad will have been taught by one of the English teachers we will train in Boone,” he said. Lutabingwa wants Appalachian to be a university of first choice for the students at the partner high schools in China.
Appalachian has also established a relationship with EducationUSA in Beijing, part of the U.S. Department of State’s global network of academic advising centers for international students considering study in the U.S. “While we only had a small group of parents and students attend, our presentation was transmitted to 90 other students throughout China and the center now has information about Appalachian that will be given to the thousands of students they reach each year,” Binger said.
Appalachian currently enrolls about 150 international students and hopes to grow that number to at least 220 students over the next three years, according to Lutabingwa. While students this fall will come from 40 countries, China, France and the United Kingdom represent the highest student enrollment.
While in Shanghai, Lutabingwa, Binger and Shao also attended the first event of the newly established chapter of the Appalachian Alumni Association of Shanghai. Lutabingwa asked association members to help Appalachian in its efforts to recruit more Chinese students to come to Appalachian. He also updated the chapter members about campus news and events, including the university’s comprehensive Campaign for Appalachian fundraising efforts.