Ivy League schools have long lured Chinese students to America, exchanging prestige for full-tuition payments. Now Christian colleges are increasingly angling for their own share.
Luckily the pool of potential students is growing—aided not only by China's booming churches, but also by widespread dissatisfaction with its schools.
Many Chinese parents are increasingly aware that a technical education alone won't ensure a prosperous future, said Brent Fulton, president of China Source. And as more Chinese enter the middle class, they gain the means to send their only child to an American liberal-arts school.
That's where some Christian colleges, including Oklahoma Christian University, Michigan's Cornerstone University, and Indiana's Huntington University, see their niche. They aim to follow the example of Alabama's Samford University and Texas's University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB). Both Baptist schools have sent admissions counselors to college expos in China in recent years and have accepted hundreds of students.
Small schools might not be able to compete with Harvard or Stanford in overall rankings or degree programs, said Rick Ostrander, provost at Cornerstone. But they do appeal to the growing number of Chinese students who desire Christian community (or at least a moral environment) along with an American education.
"Being able to speak the language of education that shapes the whole person . . . is increasingly going to resonate with [Chinese students]," Ostrander said. "But as a private, tuition-driven institution, there's a practical benefit for us as well in recruiting students who [don't have to be] heavily scholarshipped."