Surveying around 1,000 parents of students currently pursuing a US education, the study found that parents of Chinese students consider the country as the best option regardless of whether their children are studying on a US campus, remotely while in the US, or remotely from China.

Completed by Intead and WholeRen Education, the research sought to clarify sentiments of Chinese families to US study opportunities following the pandemic restricting travel and access to visas, targeted racist and xenophobic incidents exacerbated by the onset of Covid-19, events in Washington DC in January and the election of a new administration to the White House.

“This cohort has no intention of going somewhere else regardless of current news”

Of the total 1,062 respondents, 1,015 were parents – 69% who have children studying at undergraduate in the US, 29% at graduate degree or higher, 9% at high school or below, and less than 1% have children in a language school.

The report also includes findings from a focus group held with five Chinese parents in February.

The data reveals that the cohort of parents “continues to embrace a US education as their top choice for the factors identified (quality, creative thought, critical thinking, among other elements)”, according to chief executive officer at Intead Ben Waxman.

“It tells us that this cohort has no intention of going somewhere else regardless of current news – benefits outweigh risks,” he said.

While this data does not inform about prospective students or differing perceptions among parents across China (the majority of respondents reside in the Beijing area), Intead understands that there is huge pent up demand for US visas, especially among graduate students who are seeking OPT opportunities in the US.

“We predict that demand will grow dramatically among all student study levels as US institutions open up their campuses for on-campus study this fall,” Waxman said.

Ongoing challenges obtaining a US visa – which stakeholders have warned may harm the US sector – will make the “situation highly frustrating for all”, he highlighted.

“Visa issues are a growing concern as we head toward April. In January/February 2021, there may have been more optimism that the visa offices would be open by now or in early spring.”

Some 41% of respondents said more accessible visa services in China would make choosing to study in the US easier. It was the third priority highlighted, behind 77% suggesting they want to see the president and US government friendlier toward Chinese students and 76% wanting Covid-19 to be under control.

“They want Covid-19 under control, less travel restrictions, more assistance with job hunting, and easier access to visa services. There is hope that F-1 visa regulations will stabilise, even ease, to allow more students the opportunity to get a US education,” the report noted.

While the majority of Chinese students have been forced to adapt to online learning, over 20% of graduate students delayed their studies for the 2020-2021 academic year, the report noted.

“Parents prefer the in-person experience and expressed that clearly during our focus group,” Waxman added.

“They want their student to have the experience studying in the US. They also expressed a comfort (if grudgingly) with being patient for that opportunity to come when circumstances permit.”

Some 60% of parents surveyed expect their student to proceed with plans to study in the US, whether their institution opts for online or on-campus learning, the report noted.

“By far, Chinese parents found the most compelling and influential source of information about US education options comes from social media posts made by Chinese graduates of these programs,” it added.

“We do not have any indication that online formats will replace the desire for the opportunity to study in the US”

“The data confirms that recent US events during 2020 and early 2021 did not reduce the desire for a US education,” Waxman concluded.

“The perceived quality of a US education has not diminished. We do not have any indication that online formats will replace the desire for the opportunity to study in the US.

“Cultural immersion and the excitement of travel and living in the US continues to be a critical part of the experience. There does seem to be a higher level of receptivity to having online become a part of that experience. We don’t anticipate online fully replacing the travel option.”

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