Growing numbers of foreign students are ‘cash cows’ for U.S. universities

by Grace

The number of international college students surged to a record number last year as American schools increasingly value the tuition dollars they bring.

In the school year ended in May, 819,644 foreign students studied in the U.S., up 7.2% from the previous year, according to an annual report released Monday by the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization.

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The number, which includes undergraduate and graduate students, represents the seventh increase in a row and the steepest rise in four years.

Foreign students account for 3.9% of the overall student population, according to the education nonprofit.

Full-pay foreign students are “cash cows”.

The proliferation reflects continued aggressive recruiting by U.S. schools, which see full-pay foreign students as cash cows at a time of decreasing public subsidies, flattening tuitions and a falling number of U.S. high-school seniors. About two-thirds of international students in the U.S. pay their own way, and most aren’t eligible for U.S. government aid programs. Many colleges charge them additional fees.

Look for more increases in coming years.

International students pump an estimated $24 billion into the U.S. economy, but the bounty isn’t evenly distributed. Nearly 70% of the students are concentrated in about 200 schools, said Allan E. Goodman, the nonprofit’s president and chief executive. “We do have 4,000 accredited colleges,” he said. We have “room to expand.”

In addition to tuition dollars, foreign students also add diversity.  This double bonus has prompted many colleges to recruit aggressively from other countries.

Students do not come to the United States to study liberal arts.

International students overwhelmingly gravitate toward business and the sciences. Nearly half of all Chinese students are studying either business or engineering. Indian students are more heavily concentrated in engineering, math and computer science.

“Full fare bodies versus discounted bodies.”  The complaint that international students are taking up slots that should be going to U.S. residents must be balanced against the benefit of foreign dollars that subsidize the education of students paying discounted tuition.

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