Up until now Chinese students, which represent the largest percentage of the international student population worldwide, were being underserved. This new capability can serve Chinese students studying abroad not only in the United States but at institutions partnered with Flywire around the world. It is estimated that the Chinese student population studying in the main markets served by Flywire, including the United States, Europe, Australia and Canada, can save $100 million per year with Flywire.
A decade or so ago, the ability for Chinese students to leave the country and pursue their education in places like the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K. and even Japan was an experience reserved only for the children of the very wealthy who could easily afford it. And while the super rich obviously continue to send their kids outside of their own country to get the best education money can buy, they aren’t the only ones who now do so. Over the years, China’s middle class has emerged and their children, as a result, have also gained access to the opportunity to study abroad – including at some of the best schools in the world.
“As China has ‘opened up’” Andrew Ong, Managing Director of Asia Pacific for Flywire, said, “more middle class families are finding ways to afford higher education for their children in the U.S.” With a cultural expectation that parents will do what’s necessary to fund the education of their child, Ong said that Chinese parents are motivated to work hard and save so that they can help their kids achieve their higher education goals.
Flywire processed roughly 1 million payments from Chinese students in 2016 alone. That, Ong says, demonstrates that the demand for higher education overseas is on the increase, as is the realization that the emerging middle class needs help to facilitate payments from them to the college or university selected.
It’s a process that’s not so cut and dry. Ong joked that the challenging part of sending kids to school out of the country should be saving the money to pay the tuition and other fees – not the physical aspect of sending the payment to the school. Making those international payments often becomes a point of stress for the middle class families who have the money but not the same access to resources and banking options as their wealthier counterparts. That, says Ong, leaves them to wade through “a very onerous process” to try to simply move money out of their bank account to a school.
Those challenges that may sound foreign to those of us living in developed countries where getting to a bank is a walk down the street or a 5-minute car ride away. But finding a banking branch that’s close to one’s home in China, making the time to travel to that location and then waiting in line be serviced once there ends up being a half a day off work.
Then a further point of stress is then having to convert Renminbi to dollars, in a fluctuating currency market with multiple hops through a variety of banks before it lands in the bank account of the institution itself.
Flywire then facilitates the transaction through its financial partners on the ground in China, thus eliminating conversion fees and confusion because the transfer is all handled in the local currency.