April 17, 2024

Higher Education: Funding

Reven-U: Funding Higher Education

Here’s how Florida’s public universities plan to get the money they say they need to get better.

Mike Vogel | 6/27/2011

Overseas Subsidy

International students bring to Florida universities a global view — and pay full-freight tuition prices.

Yue Wang
Florida universities will be looking more to foreign students such as Yue Wang, who graduated from FIU in May, to make up for cuts in state support. [Photo: Donna Victor]

In 2009, as Yue Wang, a young college graduate in the Chinese coastal city of Tianjin, contemplated where she would like to study abroad for her master's, her attention turned to a billboard in the city advertising Florida International University.

Other signs began to point to Florida. Her uncle knew a student in FIU's hospitality program who liked it. A 2007 film adaptation of "Miami Vice," featuring Chinese actress Gong Li, left a favorable impression of Miami. Wang went to her college teacher. "I still remember his words. 'If you could get the admission letter from the university, it will change your life.' "

Wang, 25, graduated in May from FIU with a master's in Asian studies. She says living in the United States indeed changed her life.

By the Numbers
29,708 Number of foreigners studying at Florida colleges and universities in 2009-10
$827 million Amount spent in tuition, fees, room and board by foreigners at Florida's public and private universities
6th Florida's rank nationally in number of foreign students, with India, China, Venezuela, South Korea and Colombia sending the most
Source: Institute of International Education and the Association of International Educators

Florida universities are looking for foreign students to change theirs. All the universities are quick to say foreign students bring a global viewpoint that enhances the education of Florida students. Foreign students also tend to be the best of their country's lot — hardworking, smart, excelling in math, engineering and the sciences, a good resource for Florida in the global talent wars.

But the schools also aren't shy about pursuing the incremental dollars that foreign students bring. Revenue from out-of-staters has fallen by some $16 million since 2007-08, but Florida's universities are aiming to reverse that trend. By 2015, FIU wants to increase its share of out-of-state and international students to 12%. A back-of-the-envelope calculation, taking into account FIU's plans for significant overall enrollment growth, puts the incremental revenue around $24 million a year. That buys a lot of professors.

Florida has a 10% systemwide cap on non-Florida students. In recent years, the number of non-Florida students has been dropping. Currently about 8.7% of public university students are from outside Florida. The difference between 8.7% and 10% works out to $43 million in missed incremental revenue, assuming non-Floridians pay $10,000 more per year than in-state students.

Revenue from
Out-of-State Students
(Including both U.S. and international students at Florida's public universities)
2006-07 $190.3 million
2007-08 192.2 million
2008-09 188.3 million
2009-10 188.5 million
2010-11 176.5 million
Source: Florida Board of Governors
At the University of South Florida, for instance, only 6% of the student body is from outside Florida. It wants more foreign students. But it lacks the international reputation and recruiting network of older universities and would prefer not to spend the time and resources to build those in-house. So last year the school spent $250,000 from its foundation to partner with INTO University Partnerships, a U.K.-based outfit that recruits talented international students whose English proficiency isn't sufficient for regular admission.

"USF, as we speak, is getting promoted 24/7 in 75 countries all around the world," says David Stremba, INTO's managing director for North America. INTO spends $12 million on marketing and for in-country recruiters for 10 universities in the U.K. and USF and Oregon State University.

In fall 2010, 460 students enrolled in INTO USF, beating projections by 39%. In a semester-long, INTO USF program run by USF, students improve their English while taking "pathway" academic classes and receive mentoring in studies and the transition to life in the States. (International students, for example, have to learn that it's fine here to raise a hand to interrupt a professor in mid-lecture to get a point clarified.)

Some 93% of the students in the 2010 class were eligible to progress to the university, paying full freight. The program has created more than 50 jobs. More than 700 more students begin the program in August. "It's been immensely successful," says USF provost Ralph Wilcox. "The early returns have far exceeded our most ambitious projections. We expect it will yield some pretty significant revenues."

After USF recovers the cost of educating the students in the program, it splits the surplus with INTO and, of course, gets all the revenue from students who matriculate into the university.

The program widens the pool of available international students, for which "competition is incredibly fierce," Stremba says. And satisfied students build word-of-mouth marketing in their home countries. "It's worth it to spend that money at the University of South Florida," says Hao Wang, a 24-year-old from Nanning, China, who successfully completed the INTO program and now is pursuing a master's in finance. He says he is gaining the American perspective and exposure to American culture he thinks will benefit his career.

Pandu Swaraga, 25, of Indonesia, says his employer, PT Petrokimia Gresik, fulfilled his lifelong wish of seeing American when it sent him to the program. "It really is a dream come true." He's now pursuing a master's in finance.

Yue Wang, meanwhile, is getting another kind of education: Trying to find a job for the year her visa allows her to work in the United States.

Tags: Education

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