U.S. public research universities make up for slashed funds by recruiting more foreign students

U.S. public research universities make up for slashed funds by recruiting more foreign students

Huge cuts in government funding to public universities in the U.S. has led affected institutions to ramp up their recruitment of international students to offset the budget shortage, new research has revealed.

Based on research conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, many universities have adopted this measure as they are able to charge higher tuition fees from foreign students compared to domestic students.

The study found a 10 percent drop in state appropriations correlates with a 12 percent increase in international undergraduate enrollment at public research universities between 1996 to 2012.

This rise in international recruitment was even higher at the most resource-intensive public universities, at 17 percent.


The number of undergraduate students from abroad enrolling at U.S. universities has seen a marked increase, rising 67 percent from around 288,000 in 2000 to 482,000 in 2013.

Last year, the Institute of International Education (IIE) announced that for the first time, the number of international students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities exceeded one million.

Despite there being more private institutions, public universities make up a significant portion of the higher education sector, offering 63 percent of all undergraduate degrees and generating 64 percent of four-year enrollments.

The paper’s authors hypothesized that besides cuts in state appropriations, the surge of international students to public universities in the U.S. is driven by improved economic conditions overseas, allowing families to afford to send their children abroad, using China as an example.

The authors estimated that the percentage of Chinese families who have incomes higher than the average cost of out-of-state tuition and accommodation at an American public university has grown “exponentially” from less than 0.005 percent in 2000 to more than 2 percent in 2013.

However, this connection between state funding cuts and international student enrollment is only evident at public research institutions, as the study showed “essentially no link” between changes in state funding and foreign student enrolment at non-research higher education institutions.

They concluded that expanding foreign undergraduate enrollment “is an important channel through which public research universities buffer changes in state appropriations”.

“While additional revenue from in-state tuition increases appears [to] recoup a large fraction of the fall in appropriations, research universities would have had to navigate reductions in resources per student or yet larger increases in in-state tuition in the absence of the large pool of foreign students,” said the report.

Image via Shutterstock 

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