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CLINTON — Though still in the planning stages, city of Clinton and Clinton Catalyst officials are optimistic that a Chinese education entity could soon be utilizing the vacant Ashford University campus.

Catalyst representative Brian Clem was on hand during this week’s Clinton City Council meeting to update council members on the discussions between the group, which currently owns the campus sitting on the bluff overlooking the city, and a top official from the potential future inhabitant entity of the facility.

Should a deal be struck, a popular idea among those close to the situation is that students at the campus would also attend classes with students at Clinton High School. As specifics are still being analyzed, Clem told the council Tuesday that Catalyst has been courting the potential partner for roughly 10 months.

Aside from the educational opportunities that would await the international students who would relocate to Clinton and utilize the campus dormitories, an equally beneficial opportunity could await the city of Clinton if an agreement comes.

“The international students in the town that (the potential partner) invested in in England, about one-third of their parents also made other investments in the town,” Clem said Tuesday. “Usually these families are fairly well-off, and they are sending their kids abroad and paying decent amounts to do it. They’re usually business people, and once they see where their kids are at on a visit, they start looking at other things around town that they might be able to invest in.”

Clem said Clinton’s location has remained one of the campus’ strongest assets from an international perspective, as it sits only a short drive away from Chicago O’ Hare International airport where the foreign families would most likely fly into.

Officials are now in the process of drafting a development agreement for the project, as well as analyzing potential grant funding.

The discussions have prompted optimism among not only those directly involved, but other officials as well.

“The cultural exchange and the social exchange (between CHS students and international students), you couldn’t have enough money to buy that,” councilman Ed O’Neill said. “This is a really big deal...you can understand that (the potential partner’s) heart and soul is in this, and this is a big deal. It really is.”

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