When the soon-to-be-vacated UConn campus in West Hartford attracted the interest of a Chinese education company looking to establish their first international high school in the United States, some may have been surprised by the interest by the interest in having American, Asian, and other international students live and receive instruction on the suburban campus. But for those who have noticed the nearly exponential growth of Chinese high school students coming to the United States to study, the proposal submitted to the town of West Hartford and the UConn Board of Trustees was less surprising.
Chinese made up 35 percent of the 92,000 foreign secondary school students in the United States in 2015, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, by far the largest group studying here, the Boston Globe reported this week. That number has grown rapidly from only dozens a decade ago, fueled by the growing middle class in China and a desire to their children to gain an early advantage in efforts to attend college in the United States.
The number of international students across New England, with its long history and tradition of private schools, rose from 9,338 in 2010 to nearly 14,000 last year.
In Connecticut, with the second largest international student population in the region, the number has quickly climbed from 2,548 to 3.548, an increase of 39 percent in the past five years, the Globe reported, based on data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In Massachusetts, the number has jumped from 3,780 to 5,963 during the past five years. Every New England state has seen the number of international students attending local high schools increase, which Chinese students spurring the growth.
The number of Chinese K-12 students rose 290% percent to 34,578 as of November 2015 from 8,857 five years previously, according to data collected by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security that tracks foreigners on student visas and the schools they attend, the Wall Street Journal reported. Chinese students make up roughly half of the 60,815 foreign pupils in U.S. high schools and the 6,074 in primary schools, according to the newspaper.
Founded in 1999, the Beijing-based Weiming Education Group is the largest and leading provider of private schools in China with over 40,000 students in 42 campuses. The Group, which is looking to establish the new international high school in West Hartford, has established a long-term international education partnership with more than 20 schools and education institutions from a dozen of countries including the United States, Britain, Canada, Singapore, and South Korea.
The company’s website points out that “Internationalized education has become the strategic direction” of the Weiming Education’s operation management, noting U.S. offices in Michigan and Connecticut. To date, about a half-dozen partner high schools in the United States are in Michigan.
The Hartford Courant reported last summer that Cheshire Academy, a private school with 400 boarding and day students in grades 8 through 12, had 85 students from mainland China this past academic year among its international contingent of 164 students from 32 countries, or more than 40 percent of its total enrollment.
West Hartford has yet to make a decision regarding the disposition of the UConn property, with a number of competing proposals under consideration. The UConn Board of Trustees is poised to move forward with a sale of the property to Weiming, but the town retains right of first refusal, and ultimately has zoning control over the property, regardless of the owner.