Increased foreign student enrollment has allowed many US universities to avoid significant cost cuts and additional resident, in-state tuition hikes


With international students paying up to three times as much in tuition as in-state residents, public research universities in the United States are increasingly turning to foreign student recruitment to offset cuts in state support for higher education.

The number of international students in the US has increased more than 40% in the last decade. In 2015/16, international student enrollment in America surpassed the one-million mark for the first time. With foreign student numbers now at an all-time high, international education has become a big business in the US. NAFSA estimates that international students contributed US$33 billion to the US economy in 2016, while supporting more than 400,000 jobs.

University of California, Berkeley students rally against tuition fee hikes
University of California, Berkeley students rally against tuition fee hikes

And as state support for higher education has declined, public institutions have become increasingly reliant on tuition revenue. In 2003/04, state and local appropriations made up 39% of the revenue base for public colleges in the US, while net tuition revenue contributed 29%. Ten years later, these figures had reversed, according to data from the College Board.

Many universities have pursued a variety of strategies to offset public funding cuts, including tuition hikes for in-state students. The College Board reports that the average published tuition and fee price of full-time study at a public four-year institution is 40% higher in 2015/16 than it was in 2005/06. Prices at public two-year and four-year private colleges have also increased, but not to the same extent.

In addition to across-the-board tuition hikes, many institutions are doubling down on out-of-state and international recruitment as non-residents often pay much higher tuition rates.

In-state tuition at Arizona State University, currently the top US public school hosting international students, is US$10,370, compared to US$26,470 for non-residents. At highly selective institutions such as University of California, Berkeley, in-state tuition is US$13,510, whereas non-residents pay US$40,192.

With international students now making up a growing proportion of the student body at institutions across the US, the question remains whether universities are developing the capacity and services necessary to meet the needs of diverse students from abroad and integrate them into the wider campus community. Other analyses have expressed concern that international students are “crowding out” domestic students and making university admissions even more competitive. Public universities, in particular, have to balance their commitment to providing quality education to the local population, with the need to keep university studies affordable.

Source: ICEF Monitor, Verbalists


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