Foreign Students at American Schools at an All-Time High

For decades, foreign students have viewed getting their degree at an American college as a ticket to success. But what does it mean for the American education system?

How Many?

PBS News Hour has reported that 819,644 students studied abroad in the United States for the 2012/13 school year. This might seem like a large amount until the number of higher education institutions is factored in: the United States has 4,495 Title IV-eligible, degree-granting institutions, 2,774 four-year institutions, and 1,721 two-year institutions. With a total of 8,900 schools, the number of foreign students averages out to 92 students per school, hardly a lofty figure at all. In most first-year courses, 92 students would be considered a small roster.

Dollars and Cents

Where the numbers start to boggle the mind, though, is in dollars. American colleges love foreign students because the tuition for them is roughly three times higher. Whereas a domestic, in-state student pays $7,000 to $20,000 per year of tuition, an out-of-country student is charged an astronomically higher amount to the tune of $24 billion annually. Compound this with foreign students not having parents to stay with and needing to find their own places to live, and the revenue spikes even more. Many foreign students opt for on-campus housing because it's close, it's affordable, and the package deal means less details for them to worry about. It also means that the income is going straight into the college's pocket, letting them making enormous profits.

Global Allure

These added revenue streams, along with endowments from alumni, is how universities increase the quality of their programs and professors, ranking them increasingly higher on the world stage. If a bright mind has the option of going to, say, Harvard and learning from a Nobel laureate, or going to Yemen and studying under someone who's never been published in a peer-reviewed journal, the choice is pretty easy to make. Putting even a little more money into the educational system results in a huge increase in reputation, an invaluable asset for any school.

Coming from All Over

Foreign students coming to the United States isn't a new concept, but it's an increasingly popular one. With the majority of the 819,644 students coming from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada, that number marks a 7% increase from last year, and 40% (!) from over a decade prior. The website All Africa also reports that at any given time in the school year, there are at least 7,000 Nigerian students attending American universities. But despite this huge increase, foreign students still only make up less than 4% of all students. However, their financial "contributions" are very much welcomed by post-secondary institutions and the number can only be expected to keep increasing.

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