Many students today want to learn Chinese, study abroad in China, or immerse themselves in Chinese culture. If you’re one of these students, consider one of the many colleges in America with Confucius Institutes, centers of Chinese language and culture.
Confucius is revered as China’s most influential philosopher, teacher, and political theorist, known for his models of social interaction. Confucianism is not a religion, but it provides “rules for thinking and living that focus on love for humanity, worship of ancestors, respect for elders, self-discipline and conformity to rituals,” according to Biography.com.
We want you to be aware of as many higher-education-related opportunities as we can find, regardless of political opinion. We also want to find you the best value, which is why we ranked the top 20 cheapest colleges and universities that have active Confucius Institutes.
We sourced information from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database, the individual school’s website, and other resource websites listed at the end of this article to create this ranking. We started with a list of the more than 50 Confucius Institutes in America and then narrowed it down to the 20 cheapest universities, according to the NCES-reported net costs. The net cost is the median average net cost by income.
#20—University of Kentucky
The Confucius Institute at the University of Kentucky is housed within the school’s International Center. As a liaison of sorts between the surrounding community and the People’s Republic of China, the institute facilitates a strong understanding and appreciation of the Chinese language and culture. It not only provides support to UK’s China studies and exchange programs, but it also serves as a resource for community education, offering numerous Chinese courses and event programming that are open to the public. These include:
- Chinese Culture Showcases and Workshops
- Chinese Exhibitions and Performances
- Chinese Language and Culture Courses
- K-12 Chinese Language Programs
Three times over the last decade, UK’s Confucius Institute has been named the Confucius Institute of the Year.
Net Price: $18,958
#19—University of Toledo
The Confucius Institute at the University of Toledo was first opened in 2008 and continues to serve the Northwest Ohio region through various programs and services related to Chinese language learning and cultural enrichment. Language courses offered through the institute include:
- Chinese Conversation Courses
- Chinese Language Classes
- Chinese Business Etiquette
Scholarships are also available through the institute for students who wish to teach English in China at the university level. K-12 school partnerships enable the institute to reach younger students through additional language courses and a summer bridge camp.
Net Price: $17,822
#18—University of Akron
The Confucius Institute at the University of Akron emphasizes Chinese language instruction. Courses offered through the institute include:
- Beginning Chinese
- Intermediate Chinese
- Chinese Composition
- Chinese Culture through Film
- Chinese Conversation through Media
UA’s Confucius Institute also hosts a Chinese Language Learners Club, and study abroad opportunities are available. Moreover, the institute hosts a professional development and networking conference for the area’s K-12 teachers. The University of Akron’s partner university is Henan University, located in Kaifeng, China.
Net Price: $17,351
#17—University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
The UB Confucius Institute first opened in 2010. Since then, it has built a strong presence at the university and within the surrounding communities. Like other institutes of its kind, it facilitates an understanding and appreciation of the Chinese language and culture. At the University at Buffalo’s Confucius Institute, academic research and artistic production are also priorities. Some of the institute’s stand-out programs and offerings include:
- Chinese Culture Club
- Confucius Classrooms
- Study in China Programs
- Lectures, Conferences, and Symposia
- Tai Chi Classes
UB Confucius Institute’s partner university in China is the Capital Normal School in Beijing.
Net Price: $17,264
#16—Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
Colorado State University’s Confucius Institute acts as a cultural resource for Fort Collins and the surrounding communities throughout Northern Colorado. The institute’s language courses span all levels of Chinese and include options such as:
- Chinese Language for Adults and Children
- Children’s Chinese Cultural Activities
- Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy and Painting
The institute is also an official testing site for Chinese fluency and proficiency examinations. Moreover, a study-abroad summer educational trip is also offered through the institute. Students who desire to travel to China may be eligible for scholarships funded by the school’s Confucius Institute in partnership with the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban).
Net Price: $16,793
Stanford University houses its Confucius Institute within the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. The institute focuses on expanding teaching and research related to the Chinese language and culture and awards graduate fellowships to students enrolled in the university’s Chinese PhD program. Other initiatives of the institute include:
- Academic Conferences
- Chinese Language and Culture Workshops
- Public Lectures
- Chinese Cultural Performances
Chinese is the second most-studied language at Stanford. Its partner university is Peking University, a leading research university in China.
Net Price: $16,779
#14—SUNY at Albany
Albany, New York
Affiliated with Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China, the Confucius Institute of China’s Culture and Economy at SUNY at Albany hosts language and cultural programming that serves not only the university but also the Capital District at large. Classes available through the institute include:
- Taiji & Martial Arts
- Chinese Culture Workshop
- Traditional Chinese Music Appreciation
Individual and group tutoring are also available. In terms of cultural enrichment, the institute also provides programs and opportunities to community members through festivals, workshops, seminars, and more.
Net Price: $16,769
#13—Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
In collaboration with the Open University of China, the Confucius Institute at Michigan State University provides Chinese language and cultural education to the university’s surrounding communities, especially at the K-12 level. As a main focus of this initiative, the institute offers online middle and high school courses in the Chinese language, including an Advanced Placement offering. Other features of the K-12 partnership include yearly conferences and workshops for teachers and summer camps and other student activities. Prospective teachings desiring a master’s degree in TESOL may qualify for scholarships through MSU’s Confucius Institute.
Net Price: $16,579
#12—Cleveland State University
The Confucius Institute at Cleveland State University has been offering culturally enriching services and programs to the communities of Northeast Ohio since 2008. At the heart of the institute is its suite of university and continuing education courses, including:
- Independent Study on Chinese Language and Linguistics
- Intermediate Chinese
- Special Topics on Chinese Language or Culture
- Chinese Calligraphy
- Business Chinese and Culture
In addition to these Chinese language classes, the CSU Confucius Institute is also home to several cultural programs and related services, including a bridge summer camp, a Chinese speech and essay contest, a Lunar New Year Celebration, and Chinese proficiency examinations.
Net Price: $16,219
#11—Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, New York
In affiliation with its partner university, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, China, Stony Brook University’s Confucius Institute aims to promote knowledge of the Chinese culture and language while strengthening the relationship between China and the United States. The institute works to achieve its mission by offering various programs and services to the university and beyond. Some of these offerings include:
- Chinese language courses
- Chinese cultural events and performances
- Chinese proficiency tests
- Academic conferences
The Confucius Institute at Stony Brook University has been in operation since 2008.
Net Price: $15,605
#10—Wayne State University
Founded in 2008, Wayne State University’s Confucius Institute is housed within its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The institute’s primary mission is to spread an appreciation for the Chinese language and culture throughout the university as well as the larger community of southeastern Michigan. Noteworthy initiatives include:
- K-12 Outreach
- Summer in China
- Scholarship Program
- Chinese Proficiency Exams
- Chinese Speech Contest
- Mandarin Chinese Classes
Many of these programs are made possible through Wayne State’s partnership with Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China.
Net Price: $15,012
#9—Southern Utah University
Cedar City, Utah
In partnership with Hunan Normal University in China, the Confucius Institute at Southern Utah University has been working to promote an understanding of the Chinese language and culture since its opening in 2015. Today, the institute offers nearly a dozen different programs and services to its students and the community at large. Some of these initiatives include:
- Chinese Art and Calligraphy Exhibits
- Chinese Music Concerts and Performances
- Chinese Language and Culture Classes
- Chinese Language Proficiency Exams
- Study Abroad Opportunities in China
- Chinese Language Teaching Resources
Through the institute, SUU also provides training for Chinese language teachers and offers academic courses in Chinese history, literature, society, and culture.
Net Price: $14,879
#8—University of Central Arkansas
Founded in 2007, the Confucius Institute at the University of Central Arkansas remains the only institute of its kind in the state of Arkansas. Through the institute, the university hosts more than two dozen different programs aimed at promoting the Chinese culture and language within its community. Some of these initiatives include:
- Chinese Language courses
- Teach Chinese in Arkansas Program
- Confucius Classroom
- Summer China Camp
- Chinese Proficiency Tests
- Cultural Events and Festivals
Study abroad scholarships are also available to eligible students. UCA’s Confucius Institute is affiliated with East China Normal University, a public research university in Shanghai, China.
Net Price: $14,796
#7—University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Founded in 2008 through a partnership with South-Central University for Nationalities in Wuhan, China, the Confucius Institute at UW- Platteville is the only institute of its kind in the state of Wisconsin. The institute’s community outreach initiative includes programming for K-12 schools and various exhibits, galleries, and events that are open to the public. In terms of academics, the institute also offers Chinese language courses to primary and secondary school students through its Confucius Classroom. Non-credit language and martial arts classes are also available, and proficiency examinations are also administered through the institute.
Net Price: $14,611
#6—Alabama A&M University
One of the younger institutes in our ranking, the Confucius Institute at Alabama A&M University (CIAAMU), was founded in 2015. Among its most pressing goals is to support the university’s efforts to internationalize higher education and to facilitate a better understanding of the Chinese language and culture in the greater Huntsville area. Some of the institute’s most prized offerings include:
- Overseas Study Opportunities
- Chinese Culture Club
- Chinese Language Courses
- Chinese Language Proficiency Testing
- China Table
CIAAMU’s partner university is the Nanjing Forestry University located in East China.
Net Price: $14,604
#5—University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Established in 2007, the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah supports the school’s internationalization goals and facilitates a general appreciation and understanding of the Chinese language and culture. The institute maintains an ongoing partnership with Sichuan University in Sichuan, China. Its mission extends beyond the university to include K-12 schools in the local area and the general community, and the state of Utah. Some of the institute’s distinctive programs and offerings include:
- Free Online Chinese Courses
- China Bridge Summer Camp
- Asia Center
- Confucius Institute Library
- Children’s Calligraphy Exhibition
- Chinese Dual Immersion Program
The institute also offers a variety of resources for Chinese language teachers, including study abroad opportunities.
Net Price: $13,739
The Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College was established in 2012 through a partnership with Guangzhou University and the Chinese Ministry of Education. Today, the institute’s mission is to promote and celebrate Chinese culture and language and to foster an international exchange of academics and cultural expression. The institute accomplishes this mission through a variety of programs and offerings, including language courses, travel opportunities, and cultural experiences. Home to the university’s esteemed China Museum, the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College houses authentic Chinese artifacts such as silk tapestries, rosewood furniture, and oriental screens, for instance.
Net Price: $13,254
Recently recognized as one of the leading institutes of its kind in the United States, the Confucius Institute at Troy University has been promoting an understanding of the Chinese language and culture since 2007. In collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Education, the institute offers various resources and programs for university students and the broader community. Some of these offerings include:
- Chinese Modern Art Exhibition
- Chinese Summer Camps
- Study Abroad Trips to China
- Study in China Scholarship Program
The institute is also home to a testing center that offers Chinese language proficiency examinations.
Net Price: $12,951
#2—Portland State University
Housed within the school’s Office of International Affairs, the Confucius Institute at Portland State University was first established in 2007 as one of the first of its kind in the Northwest region. Today, it serves the greater Portland area with a robust suite of programs designed to further Chinese language and cultural education. Some of these offerings include:
- Non-credit language and culture classes
- Professional development for Chinese language teachers
- Scholarship opportunities for university students
The Centre sponsors PSU’s Confucius Institute for Language Education and Cooperation. Its partner school is China’s Soochow University.
Net Price: $12,710
#1—University of Southern Maine
University of Southern Maine’s Confucius Institute has partnered with Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China, to bring the Chinese language and culture to life in USM and the surrounding communities. As part of this mission, the institute offers several language courses, including:
- Beginning Chinese
- Practical Chinese
- Intermediate Chinese
Summer study abroad programs are also available for students who participate in the institute’s language courses. Among the institute’s various other initiatives include cultural festivals and events, a research program, lifelong learning opportunities for senior citizens, and a K-12 partnership with local schools.
Net Price: $12,400
About Confucius Institutes
Confucius Institutes are educational organizations that began appearing around the world in 2004. They’re overseen by the non-profit/public Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) in Beijing, officially the Office of Chinese Language Council International. These institutes often provide China-centered educational programs, experiences, and events to students and the local public. Their mission is to promote multiculturalism. Most Confucius Institutes feature the following:
- Chinese language programs
- A partner university in China
- Hanban-chosen faculty/teachers from China
- Scholarship opportunities
- Study abroad and exchange programs
- Chinese culture exposure and education
Because they’re affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, Confucius Institutes have become centers of controversy in the last few years. Inside Higher Ed reported that American universities were called on to close their Confucius Institutes by the American Association of University Professors in 2014, by the National Association of Scholars in April 2017, and by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio earlier this year. These entities have cited “too much Chinese government influence” and concerns over academic freedom as reasons behind their call for closure. Critics of the Confucius Institutes point out that, while they are housed in American universities, they are partially funded and staffed by Hanban.
However, proponents view the institutes as legitimate and productive vehicles for cultural and academic exchange. The institutes have been resources of Chinese language and culture at a time when support for the humanities is shrinking and college student interest in China is rising.
Frequently-Searched Colleges and Universities with Confucius Institutes
University at Buffalo- The University of Buffalo is one of our top 20 most affordable colleges and universities with a Confucius Institute. It has been in operation since 2010 and is in partnership with Beijing’s Capital Normal School.
George Washington University- The Confucius Institute at George Washington University was established in 2013 and provides unique educational opportunities in the Chinese language and culture. Its partner institution in China is Nanjing University.
George Mason University- The Confucius Institute at George Mason University closed at the end of June 2020.
University of Oklahoma- University of Oklahoma’s Confucius Institute was closed in October of 2020.
University of California- Davis- The Confucius Institute at UC- Davis closed on August 15, 2020.
Valparaiso University- Valparaiso University’s Confucius Institute has partnered with the Zhejiang University of Technology in China to promote Chinese cultural appreciation and language education throughout Northwest Indiana. The institute has been in operation since 2008.
Webster University- The mission of the Confucius Institute at Webster University is to facilitate Chinese language education and cultural understanding within the St. Louis region. Its partner university in China is the Beijing Language and Culture University.
The College of William and Mary- Established in 2011, the William & Mary Confucius Institute serves the Central and Southeastern portions of Virginia. The institute is officially partnered with Beijing Normal University.
Frequently-Asked Questions About Confucius Institutes
If you’ve never heard of a Confucius Institute, then you might have a lot of questions about these types of organizations and how they operate within a higher education environment. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions students have about Confucius Institutes, as well as some general information. For specific questions about a particular school or institute, it’s best to visit the program page on the school’s website or speak to a school representative.
Q: What are Confucius Institutes?
A: Confucius Institutes are nonprofit organizations sponsored by the Chinese government in an effort to strengthen the relationship between China and the U.S. and to promote an understanding and appreciation for Chinese language and culture.
Q: What kinds of services and programs do Confucius Institutes offer?
A: Programming varies by institute, but in general, Confucius Institutes offer:
- Chinese language courses
- Chinese proficiency examinations
- Chinese cultural classes (i.e., martial arts and cooking)
- Academic conferences and workshops
- Cultural festivals and events
- Chinese language teacher training and resources
Q: Are Confucius Institutes open to the public?
A: Usually, yes. Even though these organizations are housed within colleges and universities, they usually offer numerous programs and available resources to the general public. In some cases, non-students may even be eligible to participate in study abroad trips to China.
Q: How many Confucius Institutes are there in the world?
A: As of 2019, there were nearly 550 Confucius institutes worldwide.
Q: How many Confucius Institutes are there in the U.S.?
A: According to the National Association of Scholars (NAS), there are currently 63 Confucius Institutes in the United States, 55 of which reside at an American college or university.
Q: What colleges have Confucius Institutes?
A: There are 55 colleges and universities with active Confucius institutes. A complete list can be found at the National Association of Scholar’s website.
Q: Why are Confucius Institutes closing?
A: There are a number of reasons Confucius Institutes are closing. Some of these reasons include concerns over censorship, unfair hiring practices, and political propaganda.
Q: Which Confucius Institutes are closing?
A: The National Association of Scholars reports that there are 55 colleges and universities in the United States that have closed or have plans to close. A complete list of these schools can be found on the NAS website.
This article was updated in January 2021.
Editor’s Note: Prior to the 2021 update, our ranking of schools with Confucius Institutes contained 50 entries. Of those 50, 28 of them have closed their doors. They are as follows:
- University of Minnesota
- University of Michigan
- University of California, Davis
- University of Delaware
- University of Maryland
- University of Oregon
- Old Dominion University
- Central Connecticut State University
- University of Idaho
- Georgia State University
- San Diego State University
- University of Iowa
- University of Montana
- St. Cloud State University
- University of Hawai’i
- University of Memphis
- San Francisco State University
- Augusta University
- North Carolina State University
- Arizona State University
- University of Texas, San Antonio
- University of Massachusetts, Boston
- University of Alaska
- Purdue University
- Western Kentucky University
- University of South Florida
- Community College of Denver
- Miami-Dade College
- National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator
- National Association of Scholars
- BBC: Confucius Institutes- The Growth of China’s Controversial Cultural Branch
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