For many college students, a significant international population is taken for granted to be part of a school’s demographic makeup. Just a few years ago, however, this would not have been the case; in the past five years, the number of Chinese undergraduate students alone has risen from 10,000 to 57,000. Enrollment as a percentage has similarly skyrocketed.
The main cause of this, certainly in the case of public schools, is monetary; that is, schools are favoring students on yet another basis other than personal achievement. This is an unfair practice that should be nipped in the bud.
The idea is that freshmen from abroad pay full tuition, whereas many other students pay nothing at all. At the University of Washington—not to be confused with Washington University—more than a quarter of the class has a free ride. Accepting more foreigners, then, brings in a full-paying student at the expense of one who drains the schools’ coffers.
At public schools, this is especially outrageous. State schools were established for the purpose of educating the state’s youth, and they are first and foremost institutions to benefit the native inhabitants. If irksome to some, it is at least acceptable that a wealthy applicant is more likely to get in than a poor one. Here, a state resident is benefited. But when foreign students are favored, the state loses out. It has admittedly become harder for states to foot bills; state aid is falling as governments fight to cut their debt. Still, one should not blow the decline out of proportion, as the average resident tuition is still below average state aid, and average out of state tuition is only $17,500.
Wash. U. is not a state school. It is not publically funded, and it is not beholden to anyone but itself. Still, the practice of admitting foreign students who pay full tuition, even at private universities, over those who cannot is morally gray. The most egregious practice that is being adopted is to send recruiting agents abroad to publicize the university. This in itself is not particularly nefarious, but some agents give applicants for whom English is not a first language a helping hand with their essays. There is an argument to be made that grammatical standards ought to be lowered in the case of students who speak English as a second language, but for the university to help them write is wrong and is akin to offering students SAT help on an individual basis.
Further, in some international communities, cheating and lying are well-documented. For schools to give preference to students with academic backgrounds that are ethically below acceptable here is unjust. Universities such as Wash. U. should take this into account, but if the meteoric rise of international students relative to U.S. citizens is any indicator, they do not.
Wash. U., regardless of its recruiting techniques, has by no means bucked the trend. The presence of international students can be felt in the pre-orientation programs, in which all of them are required to participate. That Wash. U. is admitting international students at increased rates is unsurprising. The school is known for its attempt to squeeze every cent out of its students, from exorbitant food prices, to ever-rising, already-astronomical bills. Students who study abroad still pay Washington University tuition, regardless of the cost of tuition at the abroad university. Usually it is lower, and Wash. U. pockets the difference. Even the smoking ban, much promoted as improving health and contributing to a cleaner environment, had a financial component; the cost of health care provided by the university dropped.
There is nothing wrong with international students attending Wash. U. Favoring them could even be a philanthropic action if it gave them an opportunity they would otherwise not have had access to; Oberlin University, for example, recently admitted a former child soldier to its ranks. This is not often the case, however, and, particularly at state schools, the shift to higher numbers of international students is unfair to the state’s residents. Schools like Wash. U. are, of course, free to do as they please, but if nothing else, offering special aid to foreign students can be reprehensible.