September 11, 2011

Article: U.S. Colleges Seek Foreign Students for Intellectual Stimulus, Bottom Line


U.S. colleges seek foreign students for intellectual stimulus, bottom line
By Jenna Johnson
September 2, 2011

As vistas of suburban grocery stores gave way to exurban mansions and then hay farms during a ride to the University of Virginia early one summer morning, George Wu sat on a plush bus seat and faced two dozen students aboard the U-Va. Express.

Nearly all were Chinese, and hardly any had set foot in Virginia before their plane landed at Dulles International Airport a few hours earlier.

These students are joining the fast-growing international population at U.S. colleges. About 690,000 foreign students attended in the 2009-10 school year, up 26 percent from a decade ago. In the same time, the total at the University of Virginia rose 44 percent.

Foreign students pay out-of-state tuition, which is $36,788 for U-Va. undergraduates this year, bringing more cash to the university at a time when state funds cover less and less of its overall budget. They don’t qualify for government aid and usually do not need financial help from universities. Nationally, public and private schools have found recruiting overseas helps their bottom line.

But U-Va. officials said the greatest value of the foreign influx comes from intellectual stimulus. A late-night dorm discussion about the Chinese government’s blockage of Facebook becomes more sophisticated when a student explains what it means to live with the ban. A history class on the Korean War gains insight when a student shares how it was taught in her high school in Seoul or Beijing.

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