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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Do You Really Need to Speak English to Attend UMB? Not if You Have $35,000



A large portion of the student body is being exploited. These are the international students recruited by the China Education and Research Network (CERNET).

CERNET works with Chinese students looking to come to the United States for a college education and helps them find and apply to universities. Since 2002, UMass Boston has partnered with CERNET.

Before the Chinese students can attend UMass Boston, they study English for one full year in the U.S. The problem with this system is that it takes much longer than a year to learn a new language on an academic level. Even native English speakers struggle with college level reading and writing, and they’ve been speaking English for almost two decades.

According to the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition, it takes adults between 5 to 7 years to achieve an academic level mastery of the English language, beginning from no previous experience. However, there are several mitigating factors which prolong this learning period at the level required for university-level interactions. These factors include how old the learner is, whether they’ve been exposed to English, and their competence within their own language. In many cases, only a broken conversational level of English can be achieved after a single year.

My freshman year, I lived with a Chinese student who was learning English through the CERNET program. Despite his sincere efforts, after one year he still needed my help with basic English sentence structure in reading, writing and speaking. He especially struggled with verb conjugation. He didn’t stand a chance. One year is not enough. 

Unless CERNET explicitly explains to Chinese students that they will not be able to understand a great deal of what is going on in within the classroom, there is no way these students will understand how disadvantaged they will be by attending UMass Boston, or any other university in the U.S.

CERNET and UMass Boston make a tacit promise to incoming Chinese students that they will be able to participate and graduate just as native English speakers do. This promise is not fulfilled.

Through no fault of their own, these students put a burden on the learning environment in classrooms.

It is unfair to ask an economics professor to teach both economics and English. It is unfair to native English speakers, who are not able to engage with their peers. Most of all, it is unfair to the Chinese students, who are expected to simultaneously learn a new subject and a new language.

Why is UMass Boston so interested in recruiting international students? Because they pay $35,000 a year in tuition. Unlike regular in-state tuition, most of the money that international students pay remains on campus rather than going back to the state. 

Take a look at the ESL page on the UMass Boston website. It emphasizes the ability to pay tuition above any academic requirements. These students are nothing but a revenue source for the university.