International Student View: Recruiting for Money or Diversity?

In the United States there is a growing pressure to increase the number of international students. But in the effort to grow numbers, are some students being left behind?

Recently a report from Open Doors showed that international students brought about $21 billion dollars to the U.S. economy during the 2011-2012 year. Many universities claim that bringing international students contributes to diversity.  This could be just one of the outcomes of international students coming to U.S. universities, however, the truth is that due to budget cuts international students are seen as another easy source of revenue.

If it is true that the goal is the diversify the student population and bring many different cultures to our campuses, why is it that admissions officers of U.S. universities aggressively recruit in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia?  This is actually because they seem to be the international students who can afford to pay the expensive international tuition.  The Saudi students are very fortunate because their government provides scholarships so they can receive a western higher education  in the U.S.  Most of the Chinese students come from upper class income families who are willing to pay for education  in the U.S.

University administrators in international offices praise themselves by saying they increased the numbers of international students at their institutions, however,  what they should be saying is that the number of the Saudi and Chinese students at their campus increased.  Though they are technically not lying because any student who is from another country other than the U.S. is an international student.  However, it is misleading because most people think that there are international students from many countries, not just one or two. Most international administrators working in international offices at U.S universities credit themselves with hard working efforts for recruiting international students, but the credit really goes to the agents in China and the Saudi Cultural Mission in the U.S.

Why aren’t these administrators recruiting international students from different socioeconomic classes or third world countries?  It would make sense to bring students from third world countries to the U.S. so they can acquire knowledge that they can use to benefit their nation.  Yes, such programs do exist such as the Fulbright Scholarship, but I don’t see universities trying to recruit qualified students from  third world countries in Africa or South America or Asia.  Though the U.S. government is very generous in offering scholarships for students in third world countries , it is important that universities make  honest efforts on their own to recruit and maybe provide some scholarships to international students from third world countries, if diversity is really a goal of  the institution. If a university is looking to have international students just for their money that’s fine, but it’s not ethical for institutions of higher learning to use the “diversity card” as the reason for recruiting only international students with money.

However, the truth of the matter is that money always rules. The primary reason why international students are needed at U.S. campuses  is because of money and only a small privileged group of international students can buy this U.S. college experience. Third world countries can really benefit from their youth receiving a U.S. higher education, they just need more opportunities. I’m sure the administrators responsible for increasing international student recruitment feel pressure from someone above them. Budgets need to be balanced. And if there are students out there with money and willing to pay for an education, then let them.

But the point of my article is: It would be nice if university administrators in their international recruitment efforts could see the human component instead of just seeing dollar signs. Perhaps if more students from around the world received a quality education it would reduce conflict in the future for everyone. Not only would it provide education, but it would be the biggest act of diplomacy for the country. I know something like this can’t happen overnight. Like I said, money rules everything. We just can’t pull scholarships out of the air, universities need help providing these opportunities for less fortunate students. So I leave you with a question: what can we do?

This article was written anonymously by an international student in response to our recent Dear America! posting questioning international student tuition. 

What do you think about international student recruitment in the United States?

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