[photopress:mba_sias_uni_1.jpg,full,alignright]In China’s central Henan province, Shawn Chen says he’s building one of this nation’s fastest-growing universities on about 400 acres — almost twice the size of the main USC campus.
Nine years ago, Shawn Chen launched SIAS International University with less than $2 million, 250 students and a lot of optimism. Today, the school has more than 16,000 students and nearly 50 buildings — including a Roman amphitheater, French and Italian restaurants and an administration hall with a domed Capitol-like facade on one side and a Forbidden City tableau on the other. It also has a school band and cheerleaders.
The school’s faculty of about 700 includes 119 foreign instructors, mainly from the U.S. They teach English, history and literature and help students with debate club, cheerleading and marching band. Educationally it is not in the top tier of universities in China. And, indeed, it is suggested it is not in the second tier either. But it does educate and grant proper degrees.
The finances of SIAS seem a little hazy but Shawn Chen says he has built SIAS on funds from relatives, tuition fees and a $12-million loan from Bank of China. He says he has yet to receive a salary, only a $500 monthly travel and expense allowance.
He has arranged a partnership that lets SIAS students receive an American degree without setting foot in the States. Taking classes by video and over the Internet, SIAS students earn a dual bachelor of arts degree: one from SIAS and a general studies degree from Fort Hays.