International student enrollment for fall 2010: Increasing interest for US & UK universities

Public universities in the US are reporting record enrollment of international students (listen to my interview on NPR). Here are some examples:

University of Cincinnati: up 8%
Kent State University, Ohio: up 26%
Indiana State University: up 13%
University of Colorado, Boulder: up 11%
Iowa State University: up 10%
The University of Michigan-Flint: up 40%
Montana Tech: up 11%
University of Central Oklahoma: up 17%
Arkansas State University: up 35%

There are two primary reasons for record enrollments:
1. Decreasing state budget cuts
2. Increasing demand from source countries

At a time when private sector is showing signs of recovery, higher education is still facing budget cuts. According to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 43 states have implemented cuts to public colleges and universities. For example, Georgia has reduced state funding for public higher education for FY2011 by $151 million, or 7%. Similarly, US News and World Report notes that estimated state tax support from 2008-2010 for US public higher education was down by average 7% and for some states like Ohio it was even worse with a decrease of 14%.

In these circumstances of budget cuts, public institutions have limited options–cut costs, raise tuition or increase tuition earned per FTE. International students who pay non-resident fee and get no federal financial aid help universities by increasing the revenue potential for the universities. For example, undergraduate international students at the University of Cincinnati increased by 13% or 60 more freshmen enrolled as compared to last year. These additional 60 students will contributed nearly $1 million in incremental revenue over four years as compared to in-state students.

On the supply side, countries like China and India have seen rapid expansion at the school and undergraduate level, however, economy has not expanded at the same pace to absorb all students. For China, the gross-enrollment ratio increased from 6 % to 23% percent in a decade. Similarly, for India, the annual intake of engineering seats has doubled to over 1 million in five years. This rapid expansion has resulted in increasing demand at the graduate level. Another factor supporting mobility of China and Indian students at the undergraduate level is the increasing prosperity and affordability. For example, According to 2010 Asia-Pacific Wealth Report there were 477,000 and 127,000 US dollar millionaires in China and India respectively in 2009. This is an increase of 31% and 50% for China and India respectively from 2008.

The trend of increasing enrollment of international students at public universities is also witnessed in the UK where budget cuts have made international students more lucrative. For example, according to BBC, Welsh universities expecting a record enrollment of international students with an increase of up to 20%. Likewise, the Telegraph reported that “Vice-chancellors said they would increasingly turn to students from outside Britain and Europe to plug a multi-billion pound hole in university finances”

Overall, fall 2010 enrollments show continued strong interest by international students for US and UK as the destination and budget cuts are compelling universities to go all the way to make the best of this interest and recruit international students.

What enrollment trends are you witnessing?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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