International Students in the US


International students can be viewed as symbols of economic affluence. It is a common misconception that international students are all from wealthy families. As a result, the tuition fee for these students is at times double, or more, of that charged to local students. For example, the University of Michigan charges international students $38,000 while local students pay only $13,000 annually (University of Michigan).

Today, education is the main factor leading to economic wealth, along with technological advancement that drives globalization. The “American Dream” has always been portrayed as ideals of equal opportunity for all regardless of social class or nationality, where the United States is the land of prosperity and success. Equal opportunities for all should be created and this begins by ensuring international students do not pay more tuition fees than domestic students (Snyder and Sally 142).

Economic Importance of International Students

Education, even higher education, is in most cases at least partially funded by the government. This comes from the taxes that the ‘local people’ pay. International students do not benefit from these taxes and they have to cater for all costs of the education that they receive. This results in higher tuition fees.

The University of South Florida, for example, has an average 1500 international students. While local undergraduate students pay $15,990-$20,760 in tuition fees, international students are expected to pay an estimated $29,253 (University of South Florida).

As in the example above, it is evident that international students provide economic benefits to the universities they attend. Paying almost double the amount paid by local students provides extra funds that can then be used by the universities to increase and modernize facilities (Beine, Romain and Lionel 74). The argument is that, besides tuition fees, these students have to pay for their living expenses in the US.

Thus, their economic benefits are felt across multiple sectors considering that they have already injected a huge sum of money into the economy in terms of tuition fees (Lange 37). They buy food, rent out rooms and make general purchases that increase their economic benefit in the areas that they reside. Breaking down the living expenditures of foreign students is the best way to bring into perspective how much money is indirectly injected into the economy.

As much as it is a benefit to the local community and the particular university, the amount spent by international students is quite high. Not only do they have to pay higher tuition fees, they also have to cater for other expenses including rent, food and expensive travelling expenses. A study carried out in the UK revealed that international undergraduate students spend an estimated $997,000,000 annually in living expenses while their postgraduate counter parts spend a total of $1.5 billion annually (Kuh 107).

Upon graduation there are students who remain in the county to work or start their businesses. This is the group that is likely to bring the country numerous benefits. When employed, they apply their training and education for the benefit of the companies which in turn contributes to the economic prosperity of the country.

Foreign students have been known to make research headways and technological discoveries that have put the country ahead of its competitors. They create employment and investment opportunities through the businesses that they have established. If we critically look at the long term potential benefits that these students’ posses it then becomes unfair to charge them exorbitant tuition fees which might become counter-productive.

Education Goes Beyond Boundaries

According to Dwenger, Johanna and Katharina (89) internationalization of education is bound to positively impact technological development and, in turn, economic growth.

This is why the cost of education for domestic and international students needs to be standardized. Since the cold war, both the public and private sector have invested in higher education resulting in globalization in business and other fields. This is the direction that education needs to continue taking. To do so, it should be equally accessible to all persons.

Over the years, education has become an export commodity. Vossensteyn (91) notes that the more tuition fees foreign students pay, the higher the economic return and the less likely the government sees the need to invest in education. This is a dangerous trend that that threatens to reduce education to a superficial commodity. An interview with an international student, Alan Fang, reveals that the high cost of tuition fees is stressful.

There is a lot of pressure to produce high grades and he is unable to travel home because he cannot afford the expensive air fare. He misses his friends and family but he has no choice because they have sacrificed a lot for him to study in the United States. Lena Gama, another international student, states that she had to get two different organizations to fund her international studies. Her parents could not afford the tuition fees stated and she joined university a year later as she looked for funding.

Cases such as these demonstrate the commoditization of education which needs to come to an end; by standardizing tuition fees. Even after the international students go through the process of paying high tuition fees, they go back home to discover that the international degrees they hold are not as valued as they once are and companies are reluctant to hire them.

This will put to an end to the wrong view that education is a mere economic enterprise. If international students pay the same tuition fees as domestic students higher education will cease to be a lucrative business venture and will go back to its original purpose, which is to grow the intellectual capacity of students. The administration of colleges and universities needs to set clear boundaries to prevent commercialization of education in their institutions.

There is need to re-emphasize that education is a human right and access to education may be limited to economic pressure (Vossensteyn 7). High tuition fees limit the number of international students who can access education thus effectively denying them quality education. In my case, I am an above average student and I want to access better education. Top students can get into a lot of the top colleges but they are reluctant to do so, because of the high tuition costs.

The high tuition fees therefore limit the amount of quality students that apply to be international students. The government needs to disentangle itself from the education commercial cycle and uphold education rights. More resources need to be allocated to this sector which is the leading competitive advantage between nations.

There is the social and freedom aspect to the right to education. The social aspect obliges the government to provide education while the freedom aspect seeks to stop the state from imposing or restricting individuals from selecting their preferred choice of education when education institutions charge international students higher tuition fees they are infringing the freedom aspect of the right to education (Altbach 25).

Failure by the government to allocate sufficient funds to colleges and universities can be interpreted as indirect violation of the freedom aspect. The government in the long run is the main beneficiary therefore; the issue of government underfunding should not be used as an excuse for charging international students more tuition fees.

Unequal Opportunities

Development takes place if individuals have access to the resources they require. The United States for many decades has been viewed as the land of opportunities (Kuh 41). Good quality education is one sought after opportunities and being a country that advocates for equality, its access should not be hindered by financial obstacles.

High tuition fees are the first challenge that international students face and yet they use the same facilities and are entitled to the same learning content as domestic students. This practice is discriminative and has no justification in terms of quality of education received. Every student has a right to education and the state bears the social responsibility to ensure that it provides education for all.

It is also expected to refrain from hindering a person’s choice on the type of education. By limiting access to federal loans to domestic students alone the government is denying international students their rights to the type of education they want.

In conclusion, International students should be accorded the same privileges as their domestic counterparts when it comes to tuition fees and its access. International students have the potential to provide long term economic benefits. Both groups of students need to be provided with the same opportunities so that they can equally contribute to the economic growth of the country.

Lowering the cost of education for international students from an average $30,000 to $15,000 as paid by domestic students (as in the University of South Florida) is an important step in promoting equitable access to resources for the long term benefit of humanity. A time has come to change discriminative tuition fees policies; international students should pay the same tuition fees as domestic students.

Works Cited

Altbach, Philip. International Imperative in Higher Education. Dordrecht: Sense Publishers, 2013. Print.

Beine, Michel, Romain Noël, and Lionel Ragot. The determinants of international mobility of students. No. 3848. CESifo Working Paper: Economics of Education, 2012.

Dwenger, Nadja, Johanna Storck, and Katharina Wrohlich. “Do tuition fees affect the mobility of university applicants? Evidence from a natural experiment.” Economics of Education Review 31.1 (2012): 155-167. Print.

Kuh, George. Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. Print.

Lange, Thomas. “Return migration of foreign students and non-resident tuition fees.” Journal of Population Economics 26.2 (2013): 03-18. Print.

Snyder, Thomas, and Sally, Dillow. Digest of education statistics 2011. National Center for Education Statistics, 2012. Print.

University of Michigan. Web.

University of South Florida. Web.

Vossensteyn, Hans. International experiences with student financing: tuition fees and student financial support in perspective, 2013. Web.