Lure of Chinese Tuition Squeezes Out Asian-American Students

Oliver Staley, Bloomberg, December 28, 2011

Kwanhyun Park, the 18-year-old son of Korean immigrants, spent four years at Beverly Hills High School earning the straight As and high test scores he thought would get him into the University of California, San Diego. They weren’t enough.

The sought-after school, half a mile from the Pacific Ocean, admitted 1,460 fewer California residents this year to accept higher-paying students from out-of-state, many from China.

“I was shocked,” said Park, who also was rejected from four other UC schools, including the top-ranked campuses in Berkeley and Los Angeles, even with a 4.0 grade-point average and an SAT score above the UC San Diego average. “I took it terribly. I felt like I was doing well and I failed.”

The University of California system, rocked by budget cuts, is enrolling record numbers of out-of-state and international students, who pay almost twice that of in-state residents. Among those being squeezed out: high-achieving Asian-Americans, many of them children of immigrants, who for decades flocked to the state’s elite public colleges to move up the economic ladder.

In 2009, University of California administrators told the San Diego campus to reduce its number of in-state freshmen by 500 to about 3,400 and fill the spots with out-of-state and international students, said Mae Brown, the school’s admissions director. California residents pay $13,234 in annual tuition while nonresidents pay $22,878.

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As a result, almost 200 freshmen from China enrolled in 2011, up from 16 in 2009, a 12-fold increase. At the same time, the number of Asian-American Californians enrolled fell 29 percent to 1,230, from 1,723 in 2009. {snip}

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Asian-American students fighting to distinguish themselves to college admissions officers now have to go up against Asians from overseas, said Casey Chang, a Chinese-American senior at Claremont High School in Claremont, California, east of Los Angeles. He said he has a 4.7 grade-point average and is applying to the San Diego campus for a joint undergraduate/medical-school program.

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One in five international students nationwide, or 57,000 undergraduates, came from China in 2010-11, a 43 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Institute of International Education in Washington. Colleges are more frequently tapping this pool as the surge in middle-class incomes in China coincides with steep budget cuts at U.S. state universities.

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Asian-Americans already are being displaced by University of California admissions policies that give preference to first- generation college students. The guidelines benefit low-income Latino and African-American students over middle-income Asian- Americans whose parents went to college, said Mitchell Chang, an education professor at UCLA.

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