With decreasing state funding, several American colleges and universities have revised their internationalization strategies. They are drastically increasing enrollment of foreign students, particularly at the undergraduate level. For example, enrollment of international students at the University of Missouri-Columbia nearly doubled since 2003. However, in the same time period, graduate students proportionally declined from 70% to 44% of the total international student population. International undergraduate students are more likely to fully fund their education themselves. This allows institutions to generate additional revenue.
In 2012, The Dean of Admissions of the University of Washington revealed in an interview with the New York Times that having 18% of the freshman class coming from outside the United States (up from 2% in 2006) allowed them to provide full rides to low-income Washingtonians. He clearly admitted that more international students had been recruited to generate additional revenue to fund financial aid for local students.
Besides paying more of the actual cost of their education themselves, they can be charged special fees on top of out-of-state tuition. This year, Purdue University is charging over $2,000 to international students. While it is true that the federal government has implemented additional immigration requirements adding additional employees back in 2001, other institutions like the University of Missouri have been able to implement fees of approximately $160. At that institution, these fees are specifically meant to cover costs of compliance with the federal legislature that was implemented following 9/11. They are not meant to generate revenue to fund initiatives that do not benefit foreign students.
This piece argues that colleges and universities in the United States should reduce the burden they put on international students. While the world becomes more interconnected and globalized, institutions now compete with rivals around the globe for top students. If American institutions continue to treat international students like cash-cows it is likely that it will become more difficult (expensive) to attract top students, which could compromise the ability of American institutions to continue to dominate academia.
Attracting the best and brightest minds in the world provides a key advantage to the United States. This goes beyond increased revenue to higher education institutions. International students come to the United States to learn, teach, and innovate and their endeavors impact society. In addition to increased tuition revenue, in 2014, the US economy benefitted from over $30 billion in direct expenditures. (This is according to the 2015 Open Doors report published by the Institute of International Education.)
Social and Cultural Importance
International students bring a wealth of experiences and skills to campus. Local students gain exposure to foreigners and to learn how to socialize in cross-cultural settings, without leaving the country. Katherine Phillips argued in the Scientific American, in 2014, that working in groups with people of different backgrounds makes us more creative, diligent and hard-working.
Beyond the institutions themselves, international students also benefit society as a whole. In fact, NAFSA: Association of International Education argued in 2003 that:
“[they] generate an appreciation of American political values and institutions, and […] lay the foundation for constructive relations based on mutual understanding and goodwill. The ties formed at school between future American and future foreign leaders have facilitated innumerable foreign policy relationships. The millions of people who have studied in the United States over the years constitute a remarkable reservoir of goodwill for [the U.S.], perhaps [its] most undervalued foreign policy asset”.
By recruiting students from around the world, American institutions aim to attain international academic standards and foster relationships with alumni and academics that may go on to pursue a career in their home country. This then encourages institutions to internationalize their curriculum. According to Hans de Witt’s book published in 2002 this contributes to the reputation building of institutions and academic achievements.
Briefly, recruiting international students has immense benefits that go beyond the revenue increase. If institutions continue to increasingly treat international students like cash-cows, it may become difficult to recruit top students. If that were to happen, the United States would suffer economically, socially, culturally, politically and academically. Some developed countries charge the same low tuition, or no tuition at all, to both local and international students. Therefore, institutions should be mindful of this and stop implementing additional fees for foreign students.