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NDTO News Article

Educational Opportunities for Chinese Students Abundant in North Dakota

In the 2010-11 academic year, North Dakota saw enrollment from 3,106 foreign students, contributing a total of $61.6 million to the state.  With China accounting for the majority of foreign students in North Dakota and across the U.S., higher education opportunities will be a major focus during the March 2012 Trade Mission to China, hosted by the North Dakota Trade Office.

Higher Education in the U.S.

In America, higher education is a foundation of the nation’s ideal as a “land of opportunity”.  It is characterized by three major ideas that are not always present in other nations:

  • Highest Quality.  America is the recognized world leader in education.
  • Choice.  Students at American colleges and universities have the complete freedom to select their field of study.
  • Student/Faculty Relationship. The relationship between professors and students is one of collaboration, mutual respect, classroom discussion and mentoring.

These ideas reflect the essential elements of American character:  independence, ambition, inclusiveness, competitiveness and limits on government control.

Chinese students who have studied in the United States have many advantages for employment.  Strong English language skills, knowledge of American culture and specialized training and skills not available anywhere else in the world are just a portion of the allure of U.S. education.

China recently regained its position as the top source of foreign students to U.S. universities.  In the 2009-10 academic year, the number of Chinese students in the U.S. increased by 30 percent versus the previous year to nearly 128,000, according to the latest Open Doors report sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The rising numbers of Chinese students can be attributed to many factors, the most notable of which is the growing middle class and their ability to invest in the significant costs of overseas education.  This investment is increasingly seen as a valued path to a better future, offering heightened opportunities for professional advancement.

While the Chinese government does not actively promote overseas study, in November 2010, China’s Ministry of Education instructed secondary schools to begin assisting students seeking overseas study opportunities.  These Chinese students continue to aim first and foremost for the United States.

Foreign Students in North Dakota

The North Dakota University System includes 11 campuses: two world-class research institutions, four outstanding regional universities and five vibrant community colleges.  These universities offer training in almost any field – from medical to aviation to business to agriculture.  They provide an environment that allows partnership with local business, industry and government, combined with opportunities to work alongside leading researchers and department heads with access to significant research grants.  This, in conjunction with North Dakota’s position as the only state in the union with a budget surplus, creates added appeal to the standard U.S. education.

Currently, North Dakota State University (NDSU), University of North Dakota (UND) and Minot State University (MSU) host the largest number of foreign students, with 1307, 875 and 386 students, respectively.

North Dakota’s campuses are climbing the ranks when it comes to hosting foreign students.  In 2009-10, North Dakota ranked 40th with a total of 2,884 students; this number has increased by 7.7 percent, bringing the rank to 39th.  Although the process is slow, North Dakota higher education officials are committed to making international programs an integral part of the university systems.

Foreign students not only provide added revenue to the state, but their skills are an invaluable part of North Dakota’s role in the global marketplace.  With exports up 300 percent since 2005, these students can be of assistance to North Dakota companies who are interested in entering new markets or increasing market share in countries they’ve been working with for years.

The North Dakota Trade Office works with foreign students, North Dakota universities and local businesses to facilitate mutually beneficial relationships through the Export Assistant Program, an international internship program which identifies, screens and places talented graduate students within North Dakota businesses that want to expand their global opportunities.

“We have been successful at providing talented graduate students with valuable international business internships,” said Mark Johnson, NDTO Director of International Marketing and organizer of the Export Assistant Program.   “It’s a good program because it provides North Dakota businesses with the international expertise they need to capitalize on international opportunities and allows our highly-trained graduates to remain in state instead of having to find work elsewhere.”

By any measure, international education makes a significant contribution to our North Dakota economy, and provides added benefit to the foreign students who study in our state.

For more information about higher education opportunities in China, contact Mark Johnson at

NDTO will discuss commercial opportunities in China in an upcoming edition of NDTO News.