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Does a fancy degree really help you get a job?

By Chen Jia | China Daily USA | Updated: 2014-01-01 16:12

While overseas study agencies are busy adding up the number of Chinese families that sent almost 500,000 children to study overseas by 2014, some observers have been taking a hard look at the real return on such hefty investments.

Jack Ma, a Chinese Internet entrepreneur who was named the Financial Times' 2013 Person of the Year, shared his views on education in a Dec 29 article entitled Chinese parents count cost of sending children to overseas universities.

He wrote in the Financial Times that the honor of graduating from Harvard is not a promise for success.

He said degrees from overseas Ivy League schools have nothing to do with a students' career success.

As the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes Magazine and ranked as one of the world's top billionaires, Ma gave a speech in English at Stanford Business School. The speech has been chosen as an open class on the education channel of, a portal website in China.

Not bad for a man who never studied overseas and failed China's national college entrance exam twice before getting in to Hangzhou Teacher's Institute (today's Hangzhou Normal University).

Vivian Yu, 25, who studied two years in the US for a Master's degree in media and communication, said her parents spent more than $150,000 on tuition and living costs for her in the US and, after dropping her resume at several places in both the US and China, she didn't get one offer.

"I finally got an internship at a company run by Chinese Americans thanks to my family's social networking, but I always feel uncomfortable with the job," she said. "I want to quit this job, but I am not confident about hunting for another job by myself."

Beijingner Jerry Yang, who has a Master's degree from the United Kingdom and an MBA from the US, has a current income of around $1,800 per month.

"I didn't spend too much time at the library during my stay in the US, while I researched the local real estate market and used my parent's money to invest in a small apartment in Manhattan," he said. "Now, I rent that apartment for living.

"I regret I didn't save the overseas study fees to invest in three or four more properties, because the degrees can't help me hunt for a job with such a high return," he said.

A report from a China-based overseas study service says the number of overseas Chinese students around the world reached 450,000 by the end of 2013, and that number is expected to reach 500,000 next year.

According to the Education International Cooperation Group (EIC), the United States still has the No 1 ranking for Chinese students' overseas study, followed by the United Kingdom and Australia.

It said 28 percent of Chinese students who were heading for overseas study chose the United States, while 18 percent picked the United Kingdom and 14 percent opted for Australia.

"Nearly 60 percent of Chinese students in the US want a business degree, followed by science and engineer, as well as art," said Zhang Lei, a deputy manager of the Beijing office with the EIC.

More than 56 percent of Chinese candidates in overseas PhD studies picked the US as their top destination this year. The country also attracts 30 percent of Chinese overseas students earning bachelor's degrees.

Earlier this year, the EIC also released another report that found that middle-class families in China had become the largest group of educational venture capitals, and families with an annual income around 300,000 yuan who want to buy their children foreign degrees increased 2.6 percent over a record number in 2012.

It also reported almost 40 percent of Chinese families interviewed said they believed it was worth it to spend up to 20-to-50 percent of their assets on their children's overseas studies.

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