By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — The heinous case of murdered Chinese student Yingying Zhang is grabbing headlines from Chicago to China, and community leaders say students are thinking twice about heading to universities here.

Those leaders say the schools, which have significant numbers international students from China, will feel an impact.

“Safety is number one concern for Chinese students who want to study overseas, particularly Chicago,” said Dr. Kim Tee, who added that the story made headlines almost every day in China.

Many are now looking north.

“They are talking about looking at alternatives, like going to universities in Canada instead of the United States,” Tee said.

And with a significant number of Chinese international students at Chicago-area colleges and universities, Tee says local schools could take a hit.

“When safety is a big concern, enrollment will decline, for sure.”

At the University Of Illinois, where Yingying Zhang was a visiting scholar, there are more international students from China than any other country combined.

DePaul reports China is their largest source of international undergrads. The vast majority of international students at Northwestern are also from China.

Northwestern sent a message to those students in June, assuring them they were committed to their safety, after the Chinese government issued a warning for those studying in the United States.

U of I’s director of International Student Services, Martin McFarlane, says the university doesn’t expect a big drop in Chinese enrollment this coming year, but they won’t know until this coming fall.

Tara Molina