Partnership with Chinese education center established at University Park campus

A new Lone Star College System educational partnership is aimed at increasing enrollment numbers of foreign students at the college, particularly those from China. The Texas Center for Sino-U.S. Education and Cultural Exchange, created by a memorandum of understanding between LSCS and the Shanghai Oriental Chinese Education Development Center, will be located at the Lone Star College-University Park campus at Hwy. 249 and Louetta in Houston.

Students enrolled at LSCS represent more than 100 different countries, said Michael Mathews, chief strategist for innovation and entrepreneurship at LSC-University Park. Mathews led the partnership with Shanghai, designing it with the goal of being a sustainable business model.

"Students who come here go back and tell their family and friends, so word about Lone Star has spread," he said.

Over the past 40 years, LSC has experienced the fastest growth within an education system in the nation, and now boasts more than 90,000 students, about 30,000 of whom take classes online from around the world, said Shah Ardalan, CEO of LSC-University Park.

Schools in countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and China have expressed interest in learning how Lone Star College has been so successful, while it is the ties to China which Lone Star is eager to explore more.

Ardalan said there are many important ties between the United States and China, such as a focus on culture and education exchange.

"When you look at the world community, Lone Star is looking to redefine it," he said. "As you see across the country, the growth is in community colleges, and the retraining and retooling of people is done by community colleges. We believe we are relevant to the needs of the community, and all of those are good reasons to go global."

LSC first learned about the Shanghai Oriental Chinese Education Development Center from one of its professors who is from China, Mathews said. The SOCEDC is a nonprofit organization that promotes Chinese culture and traditions by organizing and expanding overseas contacts and cultural exchange programs, including educational programs.

Because China was not well represented in the student population, the college system looked to the SOCEDC as a good way to help get the word out about Lone Star College, Mathews said.

Mathews and his colleagues worked with the SOCEDC for more than three months on the partnership agreement. Members of the SOCEDC were then invited to travel to Houston in June to see the college in person.

"They saw Lone Star as having the full package," Mathews said. "What interested them was how we were packaging the 21st Century solution to education, the fact we also have a high school here and our English as a second language program."

The SOCEDC was also interested in the college's connection to the energy fields as well as offerings in the engineering and technology programs, he said.

The first group of students are expected to start at LSC in the spring. Ardalan estimates 20 or 30 students initially will begin classes, with the program expected to grow rapidly.