Dear Commons Community,
For a number of years, CUNY has had a relationship with the colleges/universities in Shanxi Province, about 300 miles west of Beijing. Every other year, faculty and administrators would either go to Shanxi or come to the United States for about ten days of meetings and cultural tours. Don Watkins (Baruch College) and Che-Tsao Huang (York College) were the organizers of these exchanges for CUNY. Because of a lack of funding, this program unfortunately has basically ended.
In the two trips (2001 and 2006), I made to China with this program, we became instantly aware of the remarkable expansion of higher education opportunities in Shanxi Province as colleges and universities we visited doubled and tripled in enrollments. One question we asked our hosts was whether the economy could absorb all of the new graduates. Today’s NY Times has an article that looks at the lives of several new graduates from universities in Shanxi who left their homes to seek their fortunes in Beijing, only to find that there aren’t any jobs for them. This is no small problem but one that is affecting millions of recent graduates. For example, in 1998, Chinese universities and colleges produced 830,000 graduates a year. Last May (2010), that number was more than six million and rising. The article goes on to state accurately that a significant part of the problem is that the economy in Shanxi is basically agrarian and coal mining with only a modest need for college graduates. Graduates migrate to the large cities in the East and the South such Beijing and Shanghai but unfortunately their degrees are not as well respected as those from the older, more established universities. The article is a sad commentary that even in a centrally-controlled and planned economy that the best intentions can go awry.