- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - More than 5,200 students from China attend the University of Illinois, and local businesses are taking notice.

Several banks have hired Chinese-speaking employees and several clothing stores, restaurants and tea shops that cater to Asian students have opened.

“The community is well aware that this is a huge segment of the population, some of which has a lot of disposable income, all of which needs to eat and put clothes on their back,” university professor Elizabeth Oyler, director of the Center for East Asian Languages and Cultures, told The (Champaign) News-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1FTkOSj ).

“It’s a very different town than it was 10 years ago. It’s a huge number of people in a town this size who are coming from East Asia,” she said.

Libby Tyler, Urbana’s economic development director, said the increase in international students has “definitely fueled a lot of development in Campustown and elsewhere.”

Officials see it as a positive change, Champaign-Urbana Economic Development Corp. executive director Craig Rost said, noting that Asian students bring spending power to the community. But critics complain that the school recruits the international students as a means of bringing in more tuition dollars, which they say harms in-state students’ chances of getting in.

Chinese students make up less than half of the school’s overall international population of about 10,800 - the third largest in the U.S. behind New York University and the University of Southern California.

Senior Xialingzi Jin said she never expected to see a branch of the worldwide chain Caffe Bene in her college town.

“They mean a lot to us international students,” Zheng said. “Those types of snacks we got after school in China. It’s comforting. There are more and more options for us.”

Meanwhile Jenny Liu, who is from northern China and graduated with an accounting degree in 2009, is a personal banker and international coordinator for Busey Bank.

“We had a lot of Chinese then, but not like recent years. It’s been growing more and more,” she said. Liu also has online-video orientations with Asian students before they leave homes to explain how to open accounts and what to bring.

UI Research Park Director Laura Frerichs said U.S. companies with offices in China see students as potential future employees. And, she said, some Chinese students have launched startup technology companies.

“There’s so much wealth in China now, so many students here that we could leverage to get more invested in startup companies in Champaign,” Frerichs said.


Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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