International student tuition and the funding crisis to come

One does not need to be an oracle to read the future in the cracking bones of the United States higher education system. The combination of reduced state support, increasing reliance on tuition fee revenue and decreasing domestic and international enrolment is coalescing into a hulking morass.

In 2017, inflation-adjusted state appropriation for higher education was down 10% from the decade prior and marked the first year that tuition fee funding eclipsed educational appropriations in the majority of states, according to a report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. 

While tuition fee increases have supplemented state support, it has come at a high price for students in the form of US$1.5 trillion of debt and economic preclusion from tertiary education. 

From the 2012-13 to the 2017-18 academic year, domestic enrolment declined 8.3% (according to National Center for Education Statistics data) as the gap between investment and its return widened.

International students have become increasingly important tools in the uphill battle to combat declining domestic enrolment and state support. While domestic enrolment peaked and then decreased consistently since the 2012-13 academic year, the breadth of total enrolment drops has been mitigated by international student enrolment, which increased 33.6% over the same period, according to data from the Institute of International Education.

International students, who pay on average three times more than their domestic counterparts, provide crucial financial resources to higher education institutions and constitute the majority of graduate students in STEM courses – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A dangerous game

Increasing reliance on international student tuition fees is the catalyst for transforming international higher education in the US from a diplomatic enterprise to the financial linchpin of strategic plans. 

Couched in a hybrid language of college counselling and business vernacular, the discourse surrounding international student recruitment is morphing more into the latter as students become ‘customers’ and the failure to attract them falls on the institutions, which are unable to meet the demands of a market-based higher education system into which they are unwittingly thrust. 

Aware of the writing on the wall, US higher education institutions now scour the globe in order to subsidise and supplement funding in an increasingly crowded market for recruiting international students.

The problem with this approach is that it only works until it doesn’t. The strategy of increasing tuition fees and searching far and wide for more students to pay it, hits a point of diminishing returns. Tuition revenue from a dwindling pool of students will not only shrink, but its consequences will (and do) reverberate throughout society and the economy as the population of college-educated Americans reduces and the level of student debt grows.

Complex problems and simple solutions

The dual decline of domestic and international student enrolment and the impending financial consequences expose the short-sightedness of the tuition-fee-based funding model. 

Having failed the viability test on the domestic front, we’ve exported this model globally in the hope that international students will continue to fund and populate college campuses regardless of the cost. With new international enrolment declining 6.6% this year (according to the Institute of International Education), it’s hard to make the case that it will.

It is an American predilection to believe that we can fix systemic problems through the same mechanisms that cause them. We are told that we can fix our healthcare system through greater exposure to the market, that our costly and overcrowded prisons should be privatised, that our universities need to better mirror the private sector with its quenchless thirst for financial capital. 

As a result, we lead the world in healthcare costs and incarceration. Our colleges and universities, the most expensive in the world, are at risk of falling into the same category of systemic rot.

The ramifications of diminished financial resources and fewer students is clear. The recent spate of school closures, both for- and non-profit, is symptomatic of the problems facing the US higher education system. Institutions shut down en masse, the quality of education suffers, resulting in greater decreases in enrolment, thus deepening the problem.

Rather than resign ourselves to the status quo, there is a responsibility to tackle the problem head on and save our most valuable and resilient institution – the university. To do this, we need to be honest about the causes of high tuition fees, from the construction of Babylonian campuses, to our increasing willingness to look the other way as state support dwindles.

International students, some of the best and the brightest in the world, bring us diversity and exposure to new cultures. They leave as ambassadors for American education and thought. They are not a panacea for the financial woes of our colleges and universities, morally or practically speaking.

Source

Table of Contents

UK govt announces new international education strategy

54 networks bid to join European Universities pilot

Russian unique device was presented at Dubai Innovation Week

Happy International Women's Day

Students to present their start-up instead of a thesis

The new owner of the British edition Times Higher Education

Prioritise student and academic involvement in int’l education, EURIE told

Webometrics Ranking of World Universities: January 2019

WSU to explore partnerships in Kazakhstan

Study in UAE’ targeting exchange students

Another double-digit growth for Canada, but diversity concerns raised

Chinese language will be taught at schools and universities in Saudi Arabia

IUNC Eurasia 2019

Universities step up support for foreign students to find jobs at Japanese firms

THE to hold first China Universities Forum

SCO Center for public diplomacy opens in Uzbekistan

Dutch Internationalisation “gains pace”

Finding a sustainable future for student mobility

Japan: HEI makes study abroad compulsory

Universities key in fighting global terror – DAAD

EDUCATION AND CAREER Exhibition in Minsk

Academic researchers need a more reliable career path

UK and Japan will launch programme to boost innovation

International student tuition and the funding crisis to come

New research collaboration between EU and Russia focuses on infectious diseases

Thai authorities promoting Thailand as transnational higher education hub

Academic business: world-class research centers will appear in Russia

Collective voice key to international success, say Scottish universities

Italian & Canadian schools partner on exchange

Integration of higher education in Kazakhstan into the global community

Satellite Navigation Systems: scientists of MAI and Beihang University negotiated joint research

Exchanges are the low-debt option for studying abroad

Japan: agents competing with universities for outbound mobility – JAOS

Rectors’ bodies of 10 nations sign ‘Vienna Declaration’

Kazan Federal University and Freiberg Mining Academy will implement the expanded double degree program in 2019

The Institute of Geology of Kazan Federal University discussed the further international strategy

Russia and Germany have signed a roadmap for cooperation in science and education

Eurasian economic outlook: development in the context of global changes

The Near East is ready to actively introduce Russian educational technologies

The Iraqi Ambassador visited Ulyanovsk State Technical University

Veliky Novgorod will become a center of educational innovations in December

Rector of RUDN: mutual recognition of education improves performance of universities

University without borders: How Russian universities enter the export market

The Strategy for Development of Russian Education Export

Baikal International Education Fair: results

Moscow International University Ranking "The Three University Missions": issue 2018 released

The UAE Government adopts Moscow's experience in developing school education

Representatives of Kazan Federal University took part in the IV Russian-Iranian Forum of Rectors

Project 5-100 universities have increased their presence in THE subject rankings

Overseas students turn away from US