'Fess Up: Foreign Students Are Cash Cows

October 16, 2012

There's a lot of talk on campuses about the different perspectives that international students bring. Less is said about the tuition revenue those students—who disproportionately hail from the affluent strata of certain countries, like China, and almost always pay full freight—contribute to the bottom line of American colleges.

What if administrators were more upfront about the financial benefits of foreign students—and then reinvested some of those tuition dollars in furthering international education?

"Right now that money is going into the black hole of the university budget," says Mitch Leventhal, vice chancellor for global affairs at the State University of New York.

Thirty-six of the SUNY campuses have agreed to set aside 18 percent of the first-year tuition they collect from overseas students for a Global Reinvestment Fund. Starting this academic year, some of that money will go to scholarships to help low-income and minority students study abroad, while another portion will support grants to faculty to travel overseas or internationalize their courses. The rest will be plowed back into international recruitment efforts, which could help the campuses seek out a more diverse group of foreign students.