More Than a Brain Drain


Chinese Students are becoming International: Many are enrolling in universities overseas, causing China to lose top graduate minds and money

Did you know that this year hundreds of thousands Chinese high school graduates will enroll in foreign universities and tens of thousands more will transfer overseas into local high schools? This year, many Chinese parents will make the tough decision to invest at least $30,000 USD per year in the school tuition of their children, only to see them over Skype dates and during short summer holidays. Thousands of Chinese high net worth families, however, are easing the transition by emigrating overseas every year as a single unit. Tiger moms could not be happier.

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According to a recent study by Merchants Bank and business consulting firm Bain & Company, of the more than 500,000 Chinese considered high net worth individuals, 60% are considering “investment immigration” or are already finalizing the process. One of the main reasons this phenomenon, in which Chinese Students are becoming International, is occurring is so that the children of wealthy Chinese will have access to better education.

Xu Li of Meislin Immigration in China says that based on her experience, 90% of the people that she sees doing investment immigration emigrate particularly for their children because “the cost of (paying for the) education of a child from junior high school to college will offset the cost of migration.” Lake Mary Prep in Orlando, FL, indicative of many other private schools around the U.S., currently enrolls close to 60 Chinese International Students. It has witnessed this new trend firsthand, as many of its students live nearby the school in upscale residential neighborhoods, while some of them being the only English speakers in their families.

Who Benefits from Chinese International Students?

In the U.S., thanks to an EB-5 visa, any foreigner who (1) invests over $500,000 USD into the American economy and who (2) creates at least 10 full-time jobs, among other responsibilities, is eligible to obtain a green card and becomes a permanent resident. An EB-6 visa allows any foreigner who (1) receives a financing of minimum of $100,000 USD from a U.S. investor and who (2) within two years creates 5 jobs or earns more than $500,000 USD in annual revenue with other minor stipulations is also eligible for residency. In St. Kitts and Nevis, other popular emigration destinations, a foreigner can invest nearly $400,000 USD and in return receive instant citizenship for his/her family and the benefit of easy access to 125 countries. In addition to the U.S., studies show that Chinese elite families also choose Canada, Australia, and Singapore as preferred destinations for their children and their money.


Many companies benefit from Chinese International Students: education consulting agencies that charge from 25,000 RMB – 100,000 RMB to assist in college placement, test prep companies such as Kaplan and New Oriental that specialize in SAT tutoring, and universities that generally charge full tuition from overseas students. Despite benefits to organizations, the greatest benefactors of the surge in foreign students are the countries receiving the students. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that each year international students alone pour $20 billion USD into the local economy; This figure is without accounting for the combined impact of families who have participated in the investment immigration process and without accounting for its 75% year by year growth.

Education is big business and in the case of the Chinese economy, it is an especially hurting business. The impact of the epic “brain drain” of students is more than empty seats in Chinese universities; It signifies a greater loss of financial investment and job creation in China.

While academic reform will be a slow and steady process, it is vital that China more clearly recognizes some of its greatest obstacles towards economic growth and prosperity. I believe higher education is a good place to start.