For Pennsylvania Schools

China-focused Education Initiative for Pennsylvania

Idea Foundry, along with its strategic partners from the State Office of International Business Development, Visit Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, have launched a comprehensive and targeted marketing initiative to promote the state of Pennsylvania’s education, tourism, and business investment assets in China. Among the three aspects of this initiative, education will be the anchor of the other two. Altogether we strive to build a mechanism through which talent and capital can be attracted to and retained in the commonwealth to contribute to the state’s economic and cultural development. This China-focused Marketing Initiative for Pennsylvania will have operation centers in both China and Pennsylvania.

For the first three years of this initiative, we have identified 10 Chinese cities to focus our resources and marketing efforts on:  Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Changchun, Hohhot, Taiyuan, Wenzhou, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Wuhan. In-country offices have been established to achieve this goal. As the initiative matures, more cities will be targeted.  Because the State Office of International Business and Development has already established contractors in China, we will be collaborating with them closely to make our efforts a truly statewide initiative that benefits all parties both in China and in Pennsylvania.

While we focus our resources exclusively on China, we do strive to build a model, with tested measurements, that will be applicable to similar initiatives in other Southeast Asia countries in the future.


Education Focus

Because of the significant impact that education has on tourism and business investment in China, this initiative will be centered around high school and university assets of the Commonwealth. Individual Chinese students and their families will be our primary audience. Ultimately we strive to become the center of educational information for Pennsylvania in China, through which all Pennsylvania schools with their unique value propositions can be introduced to Chinese students and parents. When we help students and parents make well-informed decisions, we greatly increase the possibility of them having a successful experience following initial school enrollments in the state. That successful experience opens doors for many other opportunities down the line.


Why China?

China has been the top place-of-origin for international students in the US for four years in a row. We especially see several important trends, such as more undergraduate students coming to the U.S. for higher education and more of them choosing to stay in the U.S. on OPT status (Optional Practical Training is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who are permitted to work in the states for one year after their graduation). In addition, 24,000 high-school aged Chinese students were studying in the U.S. in 2010-2011, an increase from nearly none five years previous, and 6, 725 middle-school students in the same school year, up from only 65 in 2006. Because personal or family resources primarily provide total educational funding of Chinese students, these students represent significant capital and economic opportunity into the schools, their local communities, the state, and ultimately the U.S.. This contributes to job creation and growth in our economy.


Why Our Initiative?

Through five years of formal business activity leveraging the Chinese market to contribute to our local economy, hundreds of conversations with Chinese students and parents, and focused investigations into the needs of American high schools, colleges, and universities, we have learned that both families and institutions face the following common challenges:

  • Primarily due to limited information about programs and schools in the U.S., Chinese students and their families rely heavily on education brokers and are subject to “seller’s market” disadvantages;
  • Without sufficient understanding of Chinese markets, the majority of U.S. schools (except those top ones with well-renowned international reputation) have difficulties recruiting appropriate Chinese students. Oftentimes those schools are also heavily dependent upon China-based or U.S.-based education brokers;
  • Discrepancy between students’ English proficiency shown in their application materials and their in-person communication is a widely-experienced problem by many schools. Poor academic or professional competitiveness experienced by some students who hired brokers to write all application materials is a challenge faced by many students after they enroll in a school.
  • Students and families make large investments in education often without the result, obtained from the education investment, a U.S.-based job with work VISA.

Our initiative strives to resolve the above problems experienced by both students/parents and PA schools so that:

  • Students/parents can be well informed to make decisions regarding their education in the U.S. and improving their outcome/return on investment.
  • PA schools can be better positioned to identify and market their unique value proposition to a Chinese audience; rankings alone should not be the basis of students decisions.
  • Students can be empowered and supported in their pursuit of American educational  experience from the very beginning of the application process to career development while they are in school, and ultimately to immigration navigation should they hope to stay in the U.S. once they finish their school.
  • PA schools can be protected in terms of not being subject to any (either U.S.-based or China-based) education brokerage’s “seller’s market,” building channels into China for future market penetration, and recruiting quality students that meet schools’ admission requirements not only on paper, but most importantly in person.


Why PA Schools Should Consider Joining Our Initiative?

Considering that Chinese students make up over 30% (32% in Pennsylvania) of the entire international student body and continue to top the list of international student origin, we believe that attracting Chinese students is a high priority for most institutions.

We often see a concerns from educators about their Chinese students’ English proficiency, academic performance, and competitiveness in the job market both in the U.S. and in China. These are all important elements for students’ long-term success, which ultimately defines the success of a school.

We believe PA schools should consider joining our initiative for the following major benefits, as an individual school, as well as a part of a group:

  • Enjoy an in-country channel that is built to directly market school and recruit students. Unlike education brokers, we believe that building a channel for future market penetration is as important, if not more so, as closing deals on student recruitment. We’ve set up in-country offices in China, along with a robust social media platform, to build a marketing pipeline over time for schools.
  • Gain support on screening students’ qualifications prior to their admission to the school, advising students about academic, and cultural preparations before they arrive the school, empowering/mentoring/counseling students while they are enrolled so that they can be as successful as they can in the education system, and helping students to navigate employment opportunities or other services after they finish their school.
  • Play an instrumental part of a holistic education value PA offers for a Chinese audience. We believe each school, whether it is well known or not, has its unique programs and elements that are not possessed by any other school. Our goal is to help identify the unique value proposition of each member school and present all our member schools in the fashion that they complement each other rather than compete against. More schools are participating, more likely we will be able to build a holistic value offer on behalf of the state, which will attract more students from different backgrounds to consider PA as their destination for education.

Also consider the following unique value propositions, we believe our initiative will be a helpful force for PA schools’ efforts in China:

  • Our program is developed by former international students who have participated in the current environment and have structured the program to directly address gaps and other challenges
  • Chinese helping Chinese, the unique cultural and family commitments by students from China need to be addressed by individuals/programs familiar with those cultural and families values;
  • In-country resources for greater reach and much more personalized assistance;
  • Membership services tiered to the largest needs but flexible to add institution specific services
  • As a non-profit economic development program, the costs of our services are shared among members as a fixed annual fee, not per student.


How to Join

If you are interested in joining our statewide initiative, please contact us and we will schedule a meeting to discuss the program in greater detail.