Hilarie Gamm is AHEAD of the News… In a national paper today, U.S. Higher Education as an Export was reviewed…and referenced was that China’s Communist Leader’s daughter – graduated from Harvard University in 2015!!!
American Higher Education: Export or Domestic Enabler?
When and who decided that financial aid at any private or public American university should be provided on financial need regardless of citizenship? Recent news stories regarding Stanford’s financial aid disbursement data, make this a timely topic of inquiry.
When it comes to attending the colleges and universities within our 50 states, most tax-paying American parents would like to believe that their children are given an equal chance of acceptance at our nation’s best universities and are given priority over non-Americans when decisions about financial aid are made.
Americans actively support the infrastructure that enables our country’s universities to thrive. As a nation, we promote free speech and independent thinking. We create laws and maintain them in large part with taxes used to pay for law enforcement. As taxpayers, we expect in good faith to see our tax dollars work towards the benefit of our communities, our educational systems, and our country. Our hope is that our children succeed as students, but more importantly, as American citizens.
Given this reality, in what context is it in our nation’s best interest to provide foreign students financial aid at America’s best institutions before providing for American students?
Foreign students pursuing bachelor’s degrees at public universities grew 151% between 2008 and 2016, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2017. Foreign students studying in the U.S. enter the country under an F1 or M1 visa. Some of the increase in foreign student attendance was due to an additional 20,000 H1B visas approved in 2006 to allow foreign graduate students to come to the U.S. to study and work. Per CNN reports, a total of 482,000 F1/M1 visas were issued in 2016. This puts the total at over a half million foreign student visas being issued to study at U.S. institutions in 2016 alone.
According to U.S. News and World Report, Stanford University awarded 188 foreign students financial aid, with an average awarded amount of $61,000 in the 2016/2017 academic year. The same report indicated Harvard University provided 600 foreign students financial aid in 2016/2017 for the same amount, $61,000. Yale University awarded aid to 336 foreign students, while Columbia University awarded aid to 213 foreign students. In total, these four Ivy League universities provided a whopping $80+ million to over 1,300 foreign students last year.
These four American universities, like hundreds of others across the U.S., enroll more foreign students today than ever before, and in essence, pay those foreign students to attend. The Ivy league schools boast endowments that are well over $20 billion each; in 2016 Harvard topped the list at close to $40 billion. The 2016 endowments of the entire Ivy League totaled over $160 billion. These endowments grow “tax-free,” yet these institutions of higher learning gift foreign students with sizable financial aid in lieu of admitting and gifting American students with that aid.
Wealthy foreign students have always been an attractive asset to America’s Ivy League schools. Part of this appeal lies in their ability to pay top dollar for an education. Over the past 20 years, Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest per capita nations in the world has been amongst the top 5 foreign nations sending students to the U.S. consistently.
Although enrollment is limited, more foreign students are gaining access and opportunity to America’s finest schools, while fewer American children are being given a chance. The statement that there aren’t enough “smart” Americans becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when America’s best universities no longer educate America’s own youth.
A paradigm shift has occurred. U.S. higher education no longer enables the country to succeed and prosper through providing American students with an affordable education that leads to subsequent employment. Today, our last great American resource — higher education — could be considered an un-taxed American industry, and as such, it is exported to foreign buyers.
Over the past 20 years, the rising costs of higher education have created a real and tangible financial hardship for American families. The cost of an undergraduate degree at a private university has jumped by 157% and the cost of a 4-year degree at a public university has escalated by almost 200% since 1995. These rates have far outpaced any tuition increases tied to inflation. For example, in 1990, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) charged $16,500 for annual tuition. In today’s dollars, adjusting for inflation, this would be equivalent to just over $28,000. In contrast, the actual expected 2018 cost for incoming freshmen will be over $48,000 in 2018, and the undergraduate student body will be comprised of over two times the number of foreign students than attended in 1990.
In September 2017, The New York Times reported the median American household income at $59,000. As U.S. wages have stagnated and the cost of higher education has tripled, the burden of college debt as a proportion of income becomes staggering. As a result, American college graduates suffer a debt burden no generation before them could have imagined. Instead of maturing into adulthood, college graduates now shy away from home buying, delay or abandon the goal of marriage and children, and struggle to become financially independent.
Rather than encourage the exportation of our higher education system to enable foreign students, foreign countries, and foreign concerns to succeed, isn’t it time to spend endowment money educating Americans?