Editorial: The Penguin and the Panda

Youngstown State University is invading China.

On Oct. 20, Martin Abraham, provost and vice president of academic affairs, and Ann Gardner, assistant director of the Center for International Studies and Programs, will accompany a small team of administrators and faculty to China to bolster relations with universities there in hopes that it will increase the number of Chinese international students at YSU.

Abraham and company will try to achieve this goal by showcasing YSU’s range of engineering courses, focusing especially on the additive manufacturing — 3D printing — classes and technologies on campus.

As reported in this issue’s story, “YSU Sends Delegation to China,” the team’s stated purpose in reaching out to attract Chinese students is to help build a diverse campus culture and strengthen opportunities for current YSU students to study abroad.

There can be no argument that in our increasingly shrinking world, exposure to and collaboration with peers from different global cultures is a good thing. Almost every student enrolled at YSU today will find themselves working in fields where they will work with — and compete against — individuals from around the world. Introducing a global culture at the collegiate level is a step toward real preparation for the work force.

That being said, the high-minded ideals behind creating a culturally diverse campus experience is not the sole benefit of attracting more international students.

They also bring in a boatload of cash.

International students — obviously not qualifying for in-state tuition — pay the out-of-state price of $14,087 to attend YSU. Add in the cost to live near campus — as many do — and the price to attend YSU can rise to $23,000 or more.

The push to reach out to students further from the traditional YSU recruiting range of Ohio and western Pennsylvania has been obvious. The hiring of Royall and Co. — a third party college recruitment company — and the formation of the Honor’s College, which expanded the number of tuition scholarships given by decreasing the number of full ride scholarships, aided in attracting students from further away.

If out-of-state students are a priority — and they are — and there exists a country that is essentially hemorrhaging university students eager to study abroad — and there is — a university would be foolish to not at least attempt tapping that well.

In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese students are by far the largest demographic — 331,371 or 29 percent — of total international students studying in the U.S.

Not only are they plentiful, but according to a 2012 Zinch Market Research survey, 62 percent of Chinese students applying to undergraduate programs at American universities can afford to pay at least $40,000 annually for their education. YSU would be a steal for students falling into that group, yet we see very few Chinese international students on campus.

A likely explanation for this lack of representation is that Chinese students trend toward attending public, flagship universities in the states where they choose to study.

In Ohio that obviously means Chinese students are heading for The Ohio State University. According to a report in 2014 from The Lantern, OSU’s student newspaper, Chinese students comprised nearly 60 percent of their international student population.

The YSU team doesn’t need to convince Chinese students to forget OSU and focus on YSU — though it’s unlikely anyone at YSU would lose any sleep over netting a few would-be Buckeyes — they only need to show off what we’ve got to offer and make a case for YSU as a real source of quality higher education.

As it turns out, that’s precisely what the YSU team is aiming to do. But should they? Is it in any way dastardly to try to attract Chinese students to our campus, especially with all the budgetary and labor troubles YSU is constantly battling?

Of course they should, and of course it isn’t.

At the end of the day, growing our international student population is a win-win situation. A diverse campus is better for the reasons mentioned earlier in this piece, and if having a diverse campus also happens to help fatten the university’s wallet, then it’s icing on the cake. Bringing more international students to campus would likely help YSU in solving some of the problems — at least the financial ones — facing the university.

Beyond that pragmatic view of the situation, it also seems like the individuals going on the trip have a legitimate interest in the non-monetary aspects of recruiting Chinese students.

Gardner helps run the CISP. Hopefully one can’t land that job without having a passion for international students and seeing them succeed. Plus, she’s on the Board of Directors of a Mahoning Valley child’s advocate program. Caring seems to be her thing.

As far as Abraham is concerned, this isn’t his first Chinese equivalent of a rodeo. Abraham traveled to China in 2005 for a recruiting trip while working as the dean of the University of Toledo’s graduate college. Later that year he published a scholarly paper in the academic journal “Environmental Progress” concerning the importance of China for sustainable development, aptly titled “The Importance of China for Sustainable Development.”

In other words, Abraham sees China as more than a land of rich, potential YSU students.

The rest are — if nothing else — taking the time out of their personal lives and travelling to the other side of the globe to help bring more students to the university. This is a good thing for the campus, any way you cut it.

This trip is a positive step toward making YSU less of a place that students “end up” and more of a place that students actively seek out.

That being said, we at The Jambar want to wish the team safe travels and good luck on their trip.

The editorial board that writes editorials consists of the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, the copy editor, and the news editor. These opinion pieces are written separately from news articles. They draw on the opinions of the entire writing staff and do not reflect the opinions of any individual staff member. The Jambar’s business manager and non-writing staff do not contribute to editorials, and the adviser does not have final approval.