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EduBoston closure highlights need for reform

The surprising shutdown of high school placement agency EduBoston, which closed suddenly on September 30, has highlighted the need for change in the way parents in China and elsewhere approach sending their children to K-12 schools abroad.

EduBostonChinese parents enlist the help of local agents, who in turn work with US providers to enroll their children at US schools. Photo: Pixabay

I wasn’t surprised, but it was sooner than expected

One of EduBoston’s Chinese partners, education giant New Oriental, told The PIE News that more than 80 of their students were affected by the closure of the company. Their emergency team had to fly out to the US to meet with local legal advisors to support their students.

“Parents are becoming… more cautious about which agents to work with”

“The emergency team quickly reached out to numerous US independent schools and appealed to them to waive or greatly reduce tuition fees for affected New Oriental students,” Joanna Song, director of the company’s international affairs department, explained.

“Many schools were severely hit financially as they never received payments from EduBoston but we were grateful that many decided to waive or greatly reduce the tuition fees for affected students.”

In the future, the company wants partners in the States to “release financial statements periodically and publicly to ensure all parties involved are well informed on their current financial standings”.

“We will work intensively with our partners in ensuring that future tuition fees are paid directly to the schools, and, per many of our families request, work out a solution with partners so that program fees for each student are paid separately from the payment package, and ideally paid to our partners in multiple instalments,” Song added.

Zhang Xi of Finding School, a Chinese-language comparison website for US schools, told The PIE that increased competition is squeezing companies in a market that is already getting smaller.

“I wasn’t surprised [about EduBoston], but it was sooner than expected. The current model has not been working,” he explained.

Zhang emphasised that financial constraints for many schools mean they rely on middlemen with contacts and networks in China to recruit their students.

“The day school business is not very transparent. Parents might think twice about sending their children to the States or send them to boarding schools with more history of admitting international students,” he said.

“Parents are becoming more selective and picky, and more cautious about which agents to work with.”

Stakeholders in the US have also been exploring new ways to try and improve the experience of students and trying to cut down on the variables within their experience.

“The homestay model is very uneven for students,” Craig Pines of Amerigo told The PIE.

“If you get a great host family, it could be great. But often that’s not the case.

“Companies like EduBoston bring the students over, but then it’s really up to the schools or the parents that they are staying with to provide the support and in some cases, they aren’t equipped to do that very well.”

K-12 international education is seen by parents as a way to help get their children into top universities abroad. In order to send their children abroad, Chinese parents without connections in the US often rely on local agents.

“We’ve seen a couple of the larger agents looking for some reassurance or looking for evidence of financial strength,” Pines noted.

But, Pines added, “I think that the draw of attending a top US university is still extremely strong.”

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