Booming Chinese-student enrollment in United States colleges and universities contributed nearly $5 billion to the US economy in the 2011-12 academic year, an education expert estimated.
"The rise of China as a contributor to the economies of many US institutions mirrors the increasing influence of China in the global economy," wrote Rahul Choudaha, director of research and advisory services at World Education Services in an e-mail to China Daily.
World Education Services is a New York-based nonprofit that specializes in international education and research.
"In 2003-04, there were 61,765 Chinese students enrolled in the US, contributing an estimated $1.4 billion to the economy. This ballooned to 194,029, contributing nearly $5 billion, in 2011-12," Choudaha added.
The number of Chinese students enrolled in US institutions of higher education in 2011-12 increased from 157,558 to 194,029, or 23 percent, over the previous year, a new report shows.
The Open Doors 2012 report, published on Tuesday by the Institute of International Education with support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department, reveals that international students in US universities make a significant positive economic impact on the US.
The report also shows that nearly half of Chinese students favor business and engineering, which became the top two majors among Chinese students.
The Open Doors report said that 64 percent of international students - and 82 percent of undergraduates - rely primarily on personal and family funds to pay for their studies.
The number of Chinese students has greatly increased, particularly at the undergraduate level. Chinese student enrollments increased by 23 percent in total and by 31 percent at the undergraduate level.
The figure from the Ministry of Education in 2012 shows that nearly 340,000 Chinese students studied abroad in 2011, and nearly 320,000 of them were self-sponsored.
Research from the World Education Services in 2012 shows that Chinese students were more likely to be well-funded for their studies abroad compared with other international students.
The research also found that nearly 60 percent of US-bound Chinese respondents were indexed high in terms of financial resources, as compared to the overall average of 49 percent.
ChinaPay, an online transaction business, recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Western Union Business Solution, a division of Western Union, providing an online tuition transaction service to Chinese students and parents.
Parents and students can pay the overseas tuition online at home, said Wang Fei, deputy general manager of ChinaPay.
Students could simply go to ChinaPay's online transaction page from the school page, and easily pay the tuition after the identification recognition. The service will extend to dormitory and other stipend payments to provide convenience to students.
Ouyang Yiting, a 19-year-old Guangzhou native who studied at the University of California, Irvine, annually spent $36,000 on her tuition plus $12,000 on living expenses.
"I got a $5,000 scholarship from the school, and my family paid the rest," she said.
However, California residents pay $14,000 annually on tuition at University of California, Irvine, according to the school's website.
Choudaha, from the World Education Services, said that schools look to recruit more self-funded students to help them deal with budgets cuts in the post-recession economy.
"Public institutions have been facing budgets cuts and many have been looking out to recruit more self-funded students, as non-resident students pay two to three times the tuition fee as resident students," Choudaha added.
He said that "this is where Chinese students with aspiration to study in the US and the ability to pay for their education emerged as a financial boon for many institutions. The contribution of Chinese students directly helped in maintaining financial health of many US institutions".
Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based nonprofit think tank, said the middle class in China has grown in the past decade, making overseas study affordable for those families.
"The increase of global communication has driven the needs of talented people who are familiar with both cultures," Wang said, adding that studying abroad is a great opportunity to gain a global vision. "Foreign countries compete for Chinese students as a strategic plan by widening visa regulations, adding internship opportunities and immigration chances," he said, adding that all the factors will attract Chinese students studying overseas.
Wang also said that the study-for-test education style in China could not satisfy every student's needs, making overseas study an alternative choice.