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Argument: Foreign students are costly to governments

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Supporting quotes from the Economist debate series

  • Jessica Vaughan, Senior Policy Analyst. The Economist Debate Series, Opposition Opening Statement. December 7th, 2007 - "The Institute for International Education claims that foreign students and their families contribute about $13 billion annually to the U.S. economy. But this analysis is too simplistic, relying on generalizations about the actual tuition paid by foreign students and ignoring the cost of government subsidies that go to all students in public and private schools. IIE’s own data show that 11 percent of foreign undergraduate students and 47 percent of foreign graduate students are supported “primarily” by the host college or university with scholarships, tuition waivers, employment, or fellowships. No student, foreign or local, pays enough in tuition to cover the actual cost of the education -- all college and university students are subsidized by taxpayers. Harvard University economist George Borjas reports that the average per-student subsidy may reach $6,400 in private universities and $9,200 in public universities, totaling several billion dollars per year."
  • Jessica Vaughn, Senior Policy Analyst. Economist Debate Series. The Opposition's rebuttal. December 14th, 2007 - "We cannot escape the issue of costs and how resources should be allocated, as commenter Nelson and others mentioned. While Ms. Cairncross has presented some well-known data on revenues generated by foreign students, the financial case for foreign student recruitment has not been proven. I have yet to see a comprehensive analysis for any country that accounts for the cost of hosting these same students, whether in the form of support staff at host schools, scholarships, or, most importantly, public subsidies. The closest example I know of is a 2006 study by the (U.S.) National Academies of Science, which found that, in the United States, at the graduate level, foreign and domestic students at public and private schools pay an average of $8,070 per year while receiving $37,234 in support. While there may be intangible benefits in terms of innovation and exceptional contributions from some foreign students, there is no financial benefit to hosting foreign students at the graduate level. I suspect that the debits may be less for undergraduate students because they use fewer stipends and grants, but there are still public subsidies involved."

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