Smaller U.S. Colleges Try to Crack Chinese Market

Ann McClure's picture

One factor that made it easier for Samford University to catch the attention of some of the thousands of Chinese students at a recent education expo was that many mistook it for a university with a similar name: Stanford.

“It’s a good conversation starter,” said Hunter Denson, an international admissions counselor for Samford, a Baptist college near Birmingham, Alabama. “They mix up the name all of the time. When we first got here, that was all they cared about. ‘Are you an Ivy League? Are you in the top 10? Why is your mascot not the Stanford tree?”’

The China Education Expo, which began its tour in Beijing in October and continued on to six other cities through November, was Mr. Denson’s third trip to China. He first visited about a year ago after Samford decided that it needed more international students. So far, the college has accepted about 100 Chinese students and is also recruiting in South America.

“We are kind of new on the scene,” Mr. Denson said. “There are a lot of schools going to recruit internationally for the first time. Many of them are looking at emerging economies. But the thing about China is there are a lot of students, and China has had a lot of economic success lately.”

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