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China trip targets foreign students, export growth

Associated Press Updated: May 8, 2014 at 6:02 pm 0

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is embarking on another trade mission to China with hopes of attracting more students to the state's universities and finding new markets for exports.

The delegation, which includes 16 business representatives and state employees, leaves Friday for a weeklong trip. Most of the trip will take place in Beijing and Shanghai, where Daugaard and others will talk business — especially dairy, sunflowers and electrical products.

One of the primary goals of the mission is attracting foreign students, especially to the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University, Daugaard said in an interview Wednesday. In the fall 2013 semester, 184 students with Chinese residency attended the state's six public institutions, the state Board of Regents has said.

Daugaard also will travel Sunday to a province in Mongolia to begin talks on establishing a "sister state" relationship, which he believes might better encourage foreign students to study in South Dakota instead of just setting up alliances between universities.

"Then you get to know the government officials over there," Daugaard said. "In a big city state like Beijing and Shanghai, that's hard to do for a small state like South Dakota. We're a pretty small fish in that pond."

Kathleen Fairfax, the assistant vice president for international affairs and outreach at SDSU, will be on the trip to promote the online course offerings for that school and for USD. She and Daugaard will meet with China's minister of education.

Some universities in other states have permanent offices in China to recruit students, but Fairfax doesn't see a need for that. She is hoping to lay the groundwork for non-traditional student recruiting.

SDSU and USD each have strong online programs, with enrollments exceeding 3,000 students per school, Fairfax said, which lands both schools in the top three percent nationally.

"SDSU is really on the forefront in terms of online education," Fairfax said. "We might be able to provide a more flexible educational experience for Chinese students and Chinese working professionals."

Fairfax said that engineering and business degrees are in high demand in China, and South Dakota universities have degrees in those fields available online.

This is Daugaard's third trip to China. The last two took place in 2012 and 2013 and were, like the upcoming trip, focused on building relationships to encourage commerce and laying ground work for trade agreements.

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