For Release:
February 4, 2010

Contact: Kathy Love — 573.522.1463

Jefferson City — Missouri has a booming trade with China, but the product is knowledge instead of manufactured goods. Chinese make up the largest percentage of international students drawn here to study at Missouri colleges and universities.

The visit this week from Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong elicited ideas for ways to increase exports to China and establish St. Louis as a hub for trade. But Missouri is already a hub of sorts for Chinese students, who make up almost a quarter of all international students enrolled in Missouri colleges and universities.

Commissioner of Higher Education Robert Stein says Missouri ranks 17th in the nation in the number of international students enrolled in U.S. institutions. "Knowledge has become an international commodity," Stein says. "Our colleges and universities are competing successfully in this global market."

There were 2,173 students from China at Missouri colleges and universities in the 2007-08 academic year, among 11,285 international students in all, up 7.1 percent from the previous year. Estimated expenditures made by foreign students in Missouri total $270.9 million. Most international students pay their own way to study in Missouri institutions.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education and 23 colleges and universities formed the Study Missouri Consortium last year to promote Missouri as a destination for international students, and to encourage Missouri students to seek opportunities to study abroad.

Research Associate Heather MacCleoud, one of the Study Missouri organizers, says global trade requires the knowledge and experience provided by international education. "Missouri employees will need the competence to work in a cross-cultural environment for partnerships with China and other countries to succeed," MacCleoud says. "Last year, almost 5,000 Missouri college students took advantage of study abroad opportunities."

The Study Missouri Consortium is sponsoring International Education Day at the Capitol on Feb. 24. Commissioner of Higher Education Robert Stein says such events in years past have been extremely popular among foreign students.

"They are truly thrilled to be able to be able to witness democracy in action," Stein says. "For many, it is the first time they have been able to actually meet an elected official. It is an experience that stays with them and has positive repercussions around the world."