Chinese Enrollment Continues to Rise

by Cathy Barbash

Once acceptances and responses were issued and received by applicants and conservatories nation-wide, I decided to take an informal look at trend in numbers of Chinese musicians who auditioned at, who were accepted to, and who chose to enroll in American institutions. My hunches proved correct: applications, acceptances and enrollments of Chinese are increasing, but my research hinted at another story. I chose to contact a handful of institutions with which I had enough contacts that I expected responses. What I ultimately found more interesting than the musician statistics was that the willingness or lack thereof to share this information seemed like an indicator of the conservatory’s self-confidence and comfort with this issue.

Curtis Institute was happy to oblige with any information I requested. They had 97 PRC citizenship applicants this year, 7 of whom were accepted. That’s up from last year’s 82. Successful candidates this year included 2 clarinetists, 2 pianists, a violinist, a violist, and a singer. All accepted chose to attend. Curtis even shared the successful applicants’ teachers: mazel tov to Keith Lipson, a Curtis grad himself, who taught both clarinetists!

New England Conservatory of Music’s representative said: “The growth has been really striking and is, consequently, something we’re tracking closely. The number of applications (roughly 15-20), admission offers (roughly 8-12), and enrolled students (roughly 1-5) from China held fairly steady from 2002-2006.

Starting in 2007, application numbers began to increase noticeably and have continued to do so each year. For our most current application cycle (class entering fall 2011), we received 224 applications. This represents about 11 times the number of applications from China than we received in each of the years from 2002-2006.

This increase in the number of applications led to a higher number of admission offers and, ultimately, enrolled students. Last year (with the fall 2010 entering class), China became the country of origin of the second-highest number of entering students at NEC, only behind South Korea. Compared to 1-5 enrolled students in each of the years 2002-2006, we have commitments from 26 Chinese students to enroll in fall 2011.

In terms of the percentages:

– From 2002-2006, applicants from China generally represented just under 1% of our total applicant pool. This year, they represented 7.5% of our total applicant pool.

– Number of Chinese applications is up from 18 applicants in 2002 to 224 applicants in 2011, an increase of 1144%.

– As application numbers from China have increased, our acceptance rate has gone down. This is to be expected—a 58% acceptance rate among 18 applicants is not terribly surprising, but a 58% acceptance rate among 224 applicants would be very surprising! So while the acceptance rate in 2002 was 58%, this year it was 26%.

– The acceptance rate for Chinese applicants over the past five years has mirrored closely our overall acceptance rate for the total NEC applicant pool.

– Enrollment yields (the number of admitted students who choose to come): From 2002-2006, an average of 34% of accepted Chinese students chose to enroll, but the percent from year to year varied greatly because the number of students was so small that the decisions of one or two people would affect the percent dramatically. From 2007-2011, when we’ve had a larger pool of applicants so that the percentages are not dramatically affected by one or two students, our enrollment yield for Chinese applicants has averaged 40%. For the coming year, about 45% of admitted Chinese students have indicated that they will be enrolling at NEC in fall 2011. Note that numbers are for the fall 2011 application cycle but those numbers are not 100% final as they may see changes over the summer.”

Eastman told me that anecdotally they have seen a gradual increase in both applicants and enrolled students from China in recent years. They attribute this increase to ongoing recruitment efforts in the Far East (including regional auditions held in Asia) as well as alums who return to their home country and speak favorably about Eastman to the next generation of students. They apologized that unfortunately they were not authorized to provide specific numbers or percentages to outside parties.

At the other end of the spectrum, two institutions would not share data (I’ll leave my readers to guess who.) One of them replied: “ ________’s application, screening, and audition processes are modeled to encourage applicants from all nationalities. In view of this, we hesitate to break out numbers specifically for the People’s Republic of China; we do not want the publication of any apparent trends in Chinese applications — or those of any country — to be taken out of context or misinterpreted.”

Sounds like I hit a sore spot…

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