It’s nice to see that the University of Washington is continuing the fine, American higher-ed tradition of bilking students no matter their place of origin. And at the University of Washington, they seem to be taking this practice to new heights: 6,000 Chinese applicants last year, with 42% deciding to enroll. Roughly 18% of incoming freshman are international students, and most of them are from China. Michael Young, president of the University of Washington, seems to elaborate the typical higher-ed vulture point of view quite well:
There is a widespread belief in Washington that internationalization is the key to the future, and Mr. Young said he was not at all bothered that there were now more students from other countries than from other states. (Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as foreign students.)
“Is there any advantage to our taking a kid from California versus a kid from China?” he said. “You’d have to convince me, because the world isn’t divided the way it used to be.”
Having taught a student from China and a student from California in the same class, I can say, based on my observational evidence in that case, that the advantage in taking a student from California over student from China is readily apparent: the student from California has more proficiency with English, which is the predominant language of academic discourse in America.
But wait, we can’t admit any poorballs without ripping off the Chinese:
If the university’s reliance on full-freight Chinese students to balance the budget echoes the nation’s dependence on China as the largest holder of American debt, well, said the dean of admissions, Philip A. Ballinger, “this is a way of getting some of that money back.”
It’s nice to see a dean of admissions concerned about student quality; oh, wait, that’s not what he said at all. But speaking of student quality, how should we approach the education of these walking bank accounts?
“We recognize that people from other countries often speak with an accent,” said John Webster, director of writing at the university’s College of Arts and Science. “If we’re truly going to be a global university, which I think is a terrific thing, we have to recognize that they may write with an accent as well.”
Yes, often students from other countries speak with an accent. And often, because their native language was not English, their writing bears the hallmarks of an ESL student. But why should an American university accept students that cannot communicate effectively in English? Who in fact may have paid someone to write their admissions essay for them? Oh, that’s right: we should admit them because those kids are cash cows. Correspondingly, we should lower–I mean recalibrate–our standards:
Given that Chinese students’ writing will be “accented” for years, Mr. Webster believes that professors should focus less on trying to make their English technically correct and more on making their essays understandable and interesting. But he knows this could be a controversial issue, reminiscent of the Ebonics debate decades ago.
Yes, ensuring that their incoherent ramblings are somehow interesting is far preferable to ensuring that they can communicate effectively in English. I want to slap this asshole really bad.
Not surprisingly, political equivocation rules the day:
“My constituents want a slot for their kid,” said Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat state representative from Seattle. “I hear it at the grocery store every day, and I’ve got four young kids myself, so I get it.
“We are struggling with capacity, access and affordability,” he said. “But international engagement is part of our state’s DNA. We have a special economic and social relationship with China, and I am happy to have so many Chinese students at the university.”
In other words: “Yeah, I totally get what you’re saying–it’s a shame that students from Washington will be replaced by ill-prepared Chinese students because they can pay full price, but also globalization is awesome and we want those Chinese trade dollars, and Chinese students are awesome, but it’s totally a bummer that because your kid can’t afford to pay full price he can’t go to U-Dub, but Chinese people are so awesome and I love China, but yeah, that sucks, man…”
You get the idea.
This is not an issue of whether English ought be a mandated language; it shouldn’t be. Nor is this an issue of whether American universities should accept international students; of course they should. This is the issue: American colleges and universities are ripping international students off, and as a side bonus, screwing over American students.
Chinese students, many of them ill-prepared in the English language, are accepted to American schools because they can pay their tuition in full (or qualify for some sort of financial aid–regardless, the college gets paid up front). Then, when they cannot keep up with the other students, the university mandates a separate course of education, billing them for extra classes in “English Prep.” Whether these students receive a quality education or actually graduate is not important, so long as their checks clear.
I taught a class at a college that admitted unprepared Chinese students solely because those students could pay. And do you know what? Those Chinese students could barely speak English, and certainly could not write in English. When I asked my student what he did for papers, he admitted that he used a translator application. During class, he generally sat in the back and watched Chinese TV shows on his iPad because he could not understand the class discussion. I felt bad for this kid because the college was ripping him off. There’s no way he was going to graduate; but they were going to shuffle him through until his bank account ran dry.
I’m not saying that every Chinese student is incapable of communicating in English. That’s ridiculous. But for the head of the writing program at a major research university to basically admit that you should lower your standards for these Chinese students implies that there are many students who cannot, in fact, communicate effectively.
This country’s higher-ed system needs an enema.