Dear Commons Community,
“International students have been coming to American schools at the graduate level for years, but undergrads now make up 41 percent of international students in the country, according to the Institute of International Education’s most recent Open Doors report on international student trends. The figure is up from 31.4 percent in 2008. A record number of international students are now studying in the U.S., peaking at a high of 819,644 students in 2013, according to the report. (The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement puts that number as high as 966,333 in July of 2014.)
The influx of foreign nationals has been a boon for cash-strapped public universities. Nearly all of these schools have seen their funding slashed over the years, and looking abroad is one way to find young, bright minds willing to pay sticker price for their education.
Between 2008 and 2012, state funding for higher education dropped off by 10.8 percent nationwide, according to the most recent Grapevine report published by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. Arizona sustained the deepest cuts: Over the five-year period, the state’s legislature decreased public education support by 36.6 percent. California schools were hit hard as well, with a 23.9 percent funding decrease in those years.
“It’s kind of common knowledge at this point that state legislators have pulled back on funding for [public] schools,” Eddie West, director of international initiatives for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told The Huffington Post. West cited a recent Chronicle of Higher Education report that offered devastating projections for the future of higher education funding — figures so bad that public schools would effectively become privatized institutions, relying on tuition money instead of public funding for support…
For the international students, American colleges and universities provide access to the best research facilities, professors and networks in the world, Obst said. And for countries like China and South Korea, which have more college-bound children thanks to a rapidly expanding middle class, the U.S. has an “unmatched ability to absorb these new students,” he said.
China, whose students account for an estimated 29 percent of all international scholars in the U.S., has some 2,410 universities, according to a 2012 government-sanctioned study. The U.S., meanwhile, has more than 4,599 degree-granting colleges and universities.”
While surely a boon to public higher education, questions have to be asked as to whether international students are displacing local, in-state students who pay lower tuitions. This is truly of concern in some universities such as Arizona and California mentioned above that have sustained several years of double-digit reductions in state funding.