Taiwan tries to recruit California students to its universities
Taiwan’s minister of education,Wei-Ling Chiang, travels to California
to encourage Taiwanese American students to enroll at its universities.
By Frank Shyong
Taiwan’s minister of education, Wei-Ling Chiang, traveled toCalifornia last week to address a rarely discussed trade imbalance with theUnited States.
“Just 3,561 American-born students are enrolled in Taiwaneseuniversities, while about 24,000 Taiwanese students enroll in universities inthe U.S,” Chiang said. “We really have to address the situationnow.”
Concerned about a brain drain, Taiwanese education officials andtop public universities are renewing their efforts to enroll more internationalstudents. A dozen Taiwanese college information centers have opened in ninecountries in the last few years, including a Michigan office in August.
And in the San Gabriel Valley, Taiwan’s university recruiters havebegun to target a new demographic: the Taiwanese American teenager.
On Saturday officials held what they said was the first Taiwaneseeducation fair in the U.S., at the Chinese Cultural Center in El Monte. About athousand people attended, attracted by advertisements in local Chinese languageradio and television stations.
Chiang made the case for Taiwan’s universities himself in a welcome
speech: A typical undergraduate education costs about $3,000 per year,a tuition set by the government, and living costs are much lower than in theU.S. Several degree programs are taught in English and several professors havedegrees from Ivy League institutions.
“Your children will enjoy a high quality education whilelearning about Taiwan’s culture,” said Chiang, a Stanford graduate.
The pitch was perhaps more attractive to parents of the second-and third-generation Taiwanese American students who were the targets of theenrollment push. They crowded around the table for the prestigious NationalTaiwan University, peppering an advisor with questions.
“What are the dorms like?” asked one parent.
Their children hung back, thrusting hands deep into jeans pocketsand adjusting headphones. “I’ve never really considered [school in Taiwan] … but mymom saw the commercials,” said Jasmine Tseng, 22, a student at Cal State Long Beach.
Some parents came even without their children’s cooperation.Hai-long Huang’s daughter already attends a local college, but he wants her totransfer to a Taiwanese university so she can learn more about her heritage.
“She might come in the afternoon,” Huang said, one armhugging a thick sheaf of pamphlets and brochures to his chest. “I’m justtaking these home for her to take a look.”
The idea of a Taiwanese education appealed to parents who believetheir children will graduate into a job market increasingly dominated by Asianlanguages and businesses. For many, the prospect of an American education has lost its shine.
Steven Su ticked off the reasons on his fingers. “First, financial aid to U.S. colleges is getting really bad.I don’t want my daughters to graduate with a lot of debt and not be able toattend graduate school.”
He also wants them to experience Chinese culture and learn thelanguage.
If they study in Taiwan, they can work throughout Asia. And, Su said,recent headlines about the cuts to California’s public education system arefrightening. Funding for the state’s community college system has dropped morethan a third since 2007. Campuses across the Cal State system are freezingenrollment, and hikes to UC tuition have become a perennial topic.
Max Liu, dean of the international college at Ming ChuanUniversity, said the timing of the fair wasn’t accidental. He wants to double,even triple, the number of American-born students attending his university inthe next few years.
“Taiwan needs friends,” Liu said. “We need peopleto experience the education and culture of Taiwan.” Janet Shang accompanied her daughter Sandy to the fair. Sa ndy, afourth year student at USC studying biology, wants to a”It’s just a Plan B,” saidSandy, clad in an Oxford University sweater.
“There’s a lot of competition in America, and inTaiwan we have an advantage because we’re bilingual.” Janet Shang agreed, but she had her own reasons. “If she goes to medical school, then I can move back therewith her,” Shang said.