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But there are deeper issues, like how much latitude professors should give in written assignments.
“We recognize that people from other countries often speak with an accent,” said John Webster, director of writing at the university’s College of Arts and Science. “If we’re truly going to be a global university, which I think is a terrific thing, we have to recognize that they may write with an accent as well.”
For example, because Mandarin has one word for “he,” “she” and “it” and nothing like “a” or “the,” many Chinese speakers struggle with pronouns and articles. And English verb forms, like past participles, gerunds and infinitives, can be difficult to master, since Chinese verbs are unchanging.
Given that Chinese students’ writing will be “accented” for years, Mr. Webster believes that professors should focus less on trying to make their English technically correct and more on making their essays understandable and interesting. But he knows this could be a controversial issue, reminiscent of the Ebonics debate decades ago.
The international influx is likely to keep growing, in part because of the booming recruiting industry that has sprung up overseas. That includes the use of commissioned agents, who help students through the admissions process — and sometimes write their application essays. Amid controversy over such agents, Mr. Hawkins’s group has named a commission, to meet for the first time next month, to formulate a policy regarding recruiters.
Nationwide, higher education financing has undergone a profound shift in recent years, with many public institutions that used to get most of their financing from state governments now relying on tuition for more than half their budgets. But legislators and taxpayers still feel deep ownership of the state institutions created to serve homegrown students — and worry that something is awry when local high achievers, even valedictorians, are rejected by the campuses they have grown up aspiring to.
“My constituents want a slot for their kid,” said Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat state representative from Seattle. “I hear it at the grocery store every day, and I’ve got four young kids myself, so I get it.
“We are struggling with capacity, access and affordability,” he said. “But international engagement is part of our state’s DNA. We have a special economic and social relationship with China, and I am happy to have so many Chinese students at the university.”
Still, Jim Allen, a counselor at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Wash., an affluent suburb north of Seattle, said: “Families are frustrated. There aren’t as many private colleges here as in the East, and a lot of families expect their children to go to U.W.”
Unlike many other state universities, the University of Washington did no overseas recruiting before this academic year, when it staged recruiting tours in several countries. So the rapid growth in international applications — to more than 6,000 this year from 1,541 in 2007, with China by far the largest source — was something of a surprise. Last spring, another surprise was the percentage who accepted offers of admission: 42 percent decided to enroll, up from 35 percent the previous year.
“As best I can make out, it’s just word of mouth,” said Mr. Ballinger, the admissions dean. “We’re well known in China, we’re highly rated on the Shanghai rankings, and we have a lot of contacts.”
Applications from abroad present some special challenges. Because the SAT is not given in mainland China, the university does not require international students to take it. Although it does not pay recruiting agents, Mr. Ballinger said he knew many applicants hired them, so the university does not consider Chinese applicants’ personal essays or recommendations. (Yes, he also knows that some affluent applicants in the United States get extensive help from paid private counselors.)
Some in-state students said they had trouble knowing what to make of the fact that international students, on the one hand, help underwrite financial aid, and on the other, take up seats that might have gone to their high school classmates.
“Morally, I feel the university should accept in-state students first, then other American students, then international students,” said Farheen Siddiqui, a freshman from Renton, Wash., just south of Seattle. “When I saw all the stories about U.W. taking more international students, I thought, ‘Damn, I’m a minority now for being in-state.’ ”
Actually, nearly two-thirds of Ms. Siddiqui’s classmates are from Washington, but her inaccurate sense of the population was echoed by all of the three dozen freshmen interviewed — including those from other states and from China. Most, like Ms. Siddiqui, estimated that half to two-thirds of the class was international.
Ms. Siddiqui cited a psychology class in which the professor asked the 600-plus students about the nature of the families they grew up in. With clickers recording the responses, Ms. Siddiqui said, about 60 percent said their families were “collectivist,” rather than “individualist,” something she perceived as more Asian than American.
Alison Luo, who grew up in Chongqing, a major city in southwest China, had mixed feelings about the trend that she is part of.
“Before I came, I saw the online chatting in China, with hundreds of people coming to the University of Washington,” Ms. Luo said. “I was kind of worried about that. I paid to study abroad, and it was almost like I was studying in China.”
A version of this article appeared in print on February 5, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Taking More Seats on Campus, Foreigners Also Pay the Freight.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/0 ... &pagewanted=all