Rising Costs for International Students at Public Universities


It is no secret that the burden of tuition on students in the US higher education system is at an all-time high, with costs continuing to rise. Adding to this burden, a new trend has arisen among certain public universities, where tuition fees for international students are rising independently of those for domestic students.

First, let’s take a look at how public universities in the USA work, and what has been changing about them in the past few years.

  1. They are all funded to a large extent by state provisions, which are composed of tax revenue coming from state residents. State governments do this to invest in equal education. To make sure that happens, they classify students as in-state or out-of-state, where in-state students pay less because of their tax contributions.
  2. High financial pressure stemming from cuts in state funding after the economic crisis have caused public universities to find other sources of income. Most have decided to rely on raised tuition fees to replace that funding.
  3. Out-of-state students have suffered the most as a result of these price hikes. This is especially true as enrollment numbers of out-of-state students have increased continuously, especially at large research universities.

In the past, international students have been lumped together with out-of-state students applying from within the USA, but this is beginning to change. Some public universities are beginning to charge increased tuition fees to international students by anywhere from $300 to $500 per semester. University representatives have justified these price hikes by explaining the allocation of those funds to costly services targeted at international student populations, including:

  • specialized guidance counselors
  • advising programs
  • government-required monitoring measures

These explanations have faced condemnation recently, as critics argue that the revenues gained by universities through these price hikes exceed the costs of such services. Examinations of higher education revenue reports have shown that international student populations in recent years have contributed immensely to the financial stability of many public universities, which has led to some critics also claiming that such institutions have begun to target international students for their financial resources.

In addition to tuition increases, enrollment numbers for international students have also risen across the board for public universities. Motivations for these changes in student quotas are unclear in some cases, but could be attributed to a variety of factors ranging from diversity to financial prosperity. So there comes, the question: What does this mean for international students applying to public universities in the US? Based on the factors examined, it seems that students should watch for increasing costs, and consider whether they can finance their educations effectively without falling into debt as a result. With competition between international applications bound to begin falling as student quotas rise, international students must consider their choices of university more deeply, taking into account their financial resources and their chances of admission.

International students should be aware of how this may affect their applications and admissions to public universities in the United States, but must also remain mindful that that this is still a new trend, and subject to change. We will continue to observe this trend and will provide any updates on this blog as they arise.

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