With the release of the Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Returnees, concerns regarding the cost of studying abroad and the future benefits are rising among both students and parents. According to the report, it takes most overseas returnees at least five years to earn back their study abroad costs.
If it is worth the investment made to obtain a foreign degree has always been a issue concerning the growing trend of studying abroad in recent years.
In order to find out if studying abroad is still a worthwhile investment, 21st Century talked to experts in related fields.
More students are returning after studying abroad
Despite the heated debates about the value of overseas study, there has been a steady increase in the number of students going abroad.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, the number of Chinese students who studied abroad increased by 17.7 percent from 2011 to 2012. A total of 399,600 Chinese students went to study abroad last year.
The US is certainly benefiting from Chinese students’ ambition to study abroad: according to the US-based Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2013 report, which provides detailed data on student flows into and out of the US, during the 2012/13 academic year, Chinese student enrollments increased by 21.4 percent to more than 235,000.
Similarly, the number of overseas returnees is surging, especially since 2008 when developed countries were greatly affected by the economic crisis. In 2009, the number of returnees, for the first time, surpassed 100,000 and this has increased at an annual rate of about 50 percent ever since.
Various reasons contribute to this growing trend, with family issues believed to be the primary one. According to Wang Huiyao, the report’s author, most students are only children and tend to depend on their parents. Besides, the economic situation in China has boosted returnees’ confidence in a future career at home.
Accompanying the increase in the number of students leaving and returning to China is the increase in the study abroad costs. According to the Open Doors 2013 report, international students pay an average of 135,000 yuan per year to attend a public university in the US, a 3.1 percent increase on the previous year.
A separate report by the China Consumers’ Association on study abroad consumption suggests that in hot study abroad destinations like Boston, New York and Chicago, 200,000 yuan is needed annually for the tuition fee. The report also reveals that students need another 80,000 to 100,000 yuan to cover living costs.
Good career prospects
Even if the cost is high, most returnees believe their overseas experience is worthwhile and helpful for their career. The annual report reveals that 86 percent of returnees found a job within six months. However, their salary is not always satisfactory. Only 22.5 percent of returnees say their job offer meets their expectations, according to the Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Returnees.
Hao Jian, chief consultant at Zhilian Recruiting, thinks returnees’ high expectations for their salary are reasonable, but it’s wise to focus more on the job prospects than the money. “The advantages returnees have should not be underestimated. Though they may need five years to earn back the study abroad costs, with the right career plan, they’ll have a tremendous future,” he says.
His view is echoed in the 2013 Survey Report on Overseas Returnees’ Employability. The report, published by the Education International Cooperation Group (EIC Group), found that returnees’ salaries see a big increase in the long run. The average salary for a returnee with less than three years of work experience is 149,700 yuan a year. But returnees with more than seven years of experience can earn an average of 222,700 yuan a year. Employees with no overseas experience do not enjoy such rapid increases in their salary.
“Good command of a foreign language, an international point of view, a large network and a comprehensive set of skills are the advantages of returnees,” says Zhang Yang, general manager of EIC’s overseas education department. “As long as they get used to the work environment and gain some experience, they’ll have a good opportunity for promotion.”
启德教育集团留学事业部总经理张杨（音译）表示：“外语能力强、有国际视野、人脉广、技能全面，这些都是海归的优势。只要他们适应工作环境并积累经验，他们就有很大的升职机会。” 注：winkey英语（点它！点它☛☛☛ 注册免费领取在线英语试听课程 ☚☚☚点它！点它