Nearly 1 million international students study at colleges and universities across the United States, up 40% from a decade ago.
These students are heading stateside to gain access to some of the best higher education in the world — and they’re paying top dollar for it.
In fact, recent data from SelfScore, a company providing financial services to international students, reveals that foreign students pay up to three times more than in-state students at public universities, “effectively subsidizing tuition costs for domestic students and functioning as a bailout for universities.”
International students are crucial to the US economy in two primary ways: They’re financing a chunk of education costs for public universities and their domestic students, and they’re fuelling the US tech industry.
The data suggests the relationship between US public colleges and foreign students grows increasingly interdependent.
In 2015, the country’s public universities gleaned more than $9 billion in tuition and fees from foreign students, according to SelfScore’s analysis. That’s about 28% of annual tuition revenue coming from foreign students, who make up an average of just 12% of the student population. Private institutions are no exception to enrolling high numbers of international students, but data is more difficult to come by, and their tuition costs will vary less student-to-student.
At Arizona State University, the public university with the largest number of international students (10,678 students, or about 14% of the total student population), in-state undergraduates pay $10,370, non-Arizona resident undergraduates pay $26,470, and international undergraduates pay $28,270 in base tuition and fees for the 2016-17 academic year.
On top of paying significantly higher tuition costs, international students are largely paying out of pocket for their education at public colleges. According to SelfScore, American banks don’t recognise foreign students’ credit histories often until after they have graduated and entered the US labour market, disabling them from securing financial aid or student loans.
About 72% of funding for international college students comes from personal and family funds, as well as home country government or university assistance, according to the US Commerce and Education departments.
As of 2015, China, India, and South Korea sent the highest numbers of students to US colleges. And they’re not only helping out colleges and domestic students. In the 2014-15 academic year, international student enrollment supported about 373,300 total US jobs and contributed more than $30 billion to the US economy.
Foreign students are also fuelling Silicon Valley
Of the 974,926 foreign undergraduate and graduate students studying in the US, about half are currently studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics, thus “creating a solid pipeline of talent for jobs in the US technology sector,” writes Kalpesh Kapadiam, cofounder and CEO of SelfScore, in an article for Tech Crunch.
In fact, a National Foundation for American Policy report found that “nearly one-quarter (20) of the 87 billion-dollar US startup companies — and almost half of the companies with an immigrant founder — had a founder who first came to America as an international student.”
But while the students — and eventually graduates — are an asset to both colleges and the tech economy, a Wall Street Journal analysis recently revealed that at several schools foreign students are more likely to disrupt academic integrity by cheating.
In their study, The Journal requested data from 50 public universities with student bodies heavy with foreign enrollment. Of the 14 that were able to provide complete data for the 2014-15 academic year, reports of cheating involving foreign students ranged from twice as high to eight times as high at some institutions.
But universities aren’t quick to punish foreign students who cheat. Rather, any concerns are trumped by their desire to retain those students paying higher tuition costs.
“I can assure you that somewhere someone at the university is doing a calculus about how much tuition they would lose if they start coming down hard on students who cheat,” Beth Mitchneck, a University of Arizona professor, told The Journal.
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