Justin Chen is about to make an important decision. The University of Marseilles is likely to offer him a place in a three-year course that is, like other public universities in France, among the cheapest of any in a developed country. Should he spend three years in France and return to Shanghai with a European degree - at a total cost of about 240,000 yuan, most of it borrowed - or stay at the job he already has, with a monthly salary of about 4,000 yuan? This is the dilemma facing thousands of young people in Shanghai, the city with the highest proportion of graduates in China. A foreign degree is no longer an automatic passport to a high-paying job that will enable them to pay back the money they and their family borrowed. Many return from abroad and find they must work for a few thousand yuan a month, in jobs they do not enjoy - while some find no jobs at all. Such people are called haidai, or 'kelp' - a pun on dai, meaning 'waiting' or 'stupid' - instead of haigui, or 'sea turtle' - a pun on 'returnee'. Mr Chen chose to study French because the cost of French universities is much lower than those in the United States, Britain and other English-speaking countries. This is the reason why most of his classmates attend classes at Shanghai's Alliance Francais, which is bursting at the seams. German universities are also cheap, but German is even harder to learn than French. 'My parents are civil servants and, between them, earn about 3,000 yuan a month. I cannot ask them to borrow the fees to go to Britain - at 250,000 yuan a year - or the US or Canada - [up to] 300,000 yuan a year,' he said. 'But I can ask them to help with the level of the French fees. 'Sometimes I think that Shanghai is the best place in China to work. I am already here, so why should I not continue working, save my own money and go abroad later to study?' The situation has changed in Shanghai because it has become a magnet for educated young people - foreigners, mainlanders and overseas Chinese, many with foreign degrees - competing fiercely in the job market. Another reason is that life as a student abroad is lonely and difficult. Often Chinese find themselves living with other Chinese, which saves money and makes for good meals. But it does not result in gaining fluency in the foreign language, and knowledge of the host country, that their parents think they're paying for. It is also because people have become more rational about the value of foreign education and less willing, than they were five years ago, to spend the family's entire savings on the education bill of one child.