OPINIONS Commentary: College expense needs reconsideration before diversity dries up


Commentary: College expense needs reconsideration before diversity dries up

By Lance Crayon | People's Daily app

09:15, May 29, 2018


Foreign student enrollment at higher learning institutions in the US had experienced a decade of growth before slowing down at the beginning of the 2016 school year. New international student enrollment dropped by 10,000, according to a recent report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). Today, the US is home to 1.1 million foreign students enrolled at universities, colleges, and junior colleges.

As new student enrollment started to decline in the months before the 2016 US presidential election, Open Doors, a data resource published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) found that foreign student enrollment dropped due to “visa delays and denials, the costs of US higher education, the shifting social and political climate, competition from institutions in other countries, and prospective students’ concerns about securing a job in the US after graduation.

Australia and Canada have experienced massive growth in their international enrollment with the bulk of overseas students coming from China. Both countries offer quality education at cheaper rates.

The Sydney Herald revealed that from 2014 to 2017, foreign student fess had risen 92 percent at universities in New South Wales, giving the region an almost $800 million boost to their economy.  It was also reported that Australian universities experienced a 30 percent increase in new foreign student applications at the start of 2017.

A week after US President Donald Trump was sworn into office, he issued the first of three travel bans that would highlight his rookie year at the Oval Office. Demonstrations at airports in Los Angeles and New York City were reported and it could have been the wrong reaction to an unnecessary measure based on the kind of attention the ordeal received. Federal judges shot the order down in three separate rulings, and all in one week.

National Public Radio (NPR) said students from the banned countries contributed $500 million annually to the US economy, according to a survey published at the time.

By the summer of 2017, smaller schools began ramping up efforts to attract more overseas students. Temple University launched the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign which now includes 300 colleges and universities aimed at bolstering campus diversity and global educational outreach. The initiative provides scholarships and support to foreign students from over 150 countries worldwide.

The biggest hurdle with going to school in the US is the price tag as it is the most expensive in the world for college. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that the University of Southern California (USC) was the most expensive university in the US with a one-year price tag of $70,000 for tuition, books, and living expenses.  Students, both foreign and domestic, pay the same at USC, but at other schools out-of-state and overseas students pay two or three times more.

At the University of Washington in Seattle, a school with roughly 8,000 international students, annual tuition and fees alone cost state residents around $11,000, while international students pay $35,000.

China is the only country that has shown consistent growth among the international student demographic. Two years ago, MPI reported there were 325,000 Chinese nationals attending schools in the US, today, that number has risen to 350,000.  Since the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese nationals have had a presence on US college campuses. 

In 1854, Yung Ming graduated from Yale College, and became the first Chinese national to receive a college degree in America. Officials from his hometown of Zhuhai in Southern China’s Guangdong Province donated a bronze statue to the Ivy League institution in 2004 honoring the 150th anniversary of Yung’s commencement.

As enrollment has gone up among foreigners, a report for National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that for the past six consecutive years enrollment among American students has declined.  

Even junior colleges have gotten in on the foreign enrollment game.  This fall, California will offer free tuition for one year at its junior colleges. Critics of the free initiative feel the measure will mainly attract international students while ignoring the state’s lower-class residents. The tuition may be covered, but books, student fees, and living expenses keep higher education out of reach for lower-class citizens. 

Campus diversity is a sign of a healthy academic environment. Universities should focus on narrowing the gap between lower income US citizens and international students.  The only way to achieve this would be to make college affordable. The sooner schools do this, the more successful they will be.

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