Everyone wants international students! Why?

There is hardly a college or university in US or Europe that is not actively recruiting international students. They spend significant resources to recruit international students using dedicated staff, glossy marketing materials, and country tours. It is worthwhile to ask the question, "Why?" Why are colleges and universities interested in recruiting from around the world?

The standard and widely cited reasons for this massive effort are:

  •  internationalization is good;
  • a global view is essential in today's world;
  • graduates must be global citizens;
  • we want to create a "global village" within our campus;
  • diversity is good for society;
  • our students must learn to work with people from all over the world;
  • new experiences opens our thinking and enhances our creativity;

I am sure there are a few other good reasons as well besides the above list. Presidents' of many colleges and universities are sincere when they cite the above reasons. After all, which institution wants to be known for graduating an ignoramus?

Today, recruiting international students is a thriving business. There are many for-profit and non-profit organizations and corporations dedicated to recruiting international students (including my company!). The websites of many colleges and universities has a dedicated web link that shows photos of happy international students set against the backdrop of colorful flags from all over the world. The message is "Come home to us!"

However, one of the most compelling and less widely known reasons for the big push for international students is economics - yes, good old economics - international students pay anywhere from two to three times the tuition rates of domestic students. In short, they are a great source of revenue for colleges and universities and they don't cost a dime more than educating a domestic student.

In addition, many international students excel in math and science and are dedicated lab assistants, graders, and graduate teaching assistants. They fill doctoral programs and love to live and sleep in labs, passionate about their research and their dissertations. Frequently, they don't have transportation and thus stay glued to the library or the lab. I know because I was one of them.

In today's economic environment, with the state coffers drying up like a patch of desert water, the push for recruiting international students is likely to increase. There are great schools that are genuinely dedicated to the ideals listed above and are passionate about graduating global citizens. And then there are those that want a warm body from another country. It is up to students to be careful when they shop for a university. If you (student) do, you will get a great education in a great country; if you don't, you would have done nothing for yourself - just helped a college or university get rich at your expense.

Dr. Uma G. Gupta is the President and CEO of Global Cube Consultants, an international higher education consulting company. She can be reached at guptaguma@gmail.com

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