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Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 7; February 22, 2012

1. THE PLAYING FIELD

U.S. unis increase international student numbers… but at what cost?

2. ABROAD PERSPECTIVES

And the list continues… More new visa rules in the UK and Australia.

3. OVER THE COUNTER

Growing number of US unis receive gifts from afar.

4. GLOBE TIPPING

The right people can make all the difference.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – U.S. unis increase international student numbers… but at what cost?

At the University of Washington, 18% of all freshmen students come from overseas, and most from China. With each of these students paying tuition fees of $28,059 (around three times that of Washington State students), it is these foreign fees allowing the University to pay its bills and offer low-income Washingtonians (more than a quarter of the class) a much cheaper tuition.

Yet, with state financing slashed by more than half in the last three years, and fewer admission offers to Washington residents (their shrinking numbers lie in direct contrast to that of international students), a number of local politicians and parents are expressing concerns. Some have inquired with the university president whether their children could get in if they paid the out-of state tuition (a rate which equals that of foreign students), while others worry when local high achievers, even class valedictorians, are rejected by the state campuses they grew up aspiring to.

“My constituents want a slot for their kid,” said Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat state representative from Seattle. “I hear it at the grocery store every day, and I’ve got four young kids myself, so I get it.

According to the Institute of International Education, foreign students in the U.S. contribute around $21 billion per year to the national economy – more than $450 million to Washington State alone. It’s not just the University of Washington whose demographics have been shifting. Other institutions, from Illinois to Indiana, Iowa, Berkeley and the University of California, have all been experiencing similar climbs, and some such as Purdue, have even decided to charge the students additional fees on top of tuition.

“We’re in something akin to the gold rush,” says David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “While it’s the admissions offices butting up against the issues most right now, every department after them, every faculty member who comes into contact with international students, is going to have to recalibrate as institutions becomes more international. I see a cascading list of challenges.”

And money isn’t the only concern people are speaking up about. Many are questioning how these student changes translate once in the classroom – and specifically, how much leeway should professors give foreign students (struggling with issues of English as a Second Language) with written assignments.

With higher education financing making a profound shift nationwide, many public institutions are forced to rely more and more on tuition, and in many cases it makes up more than half their budgets.

As for the other students at institutions like the University of Washington, where 11% of the nearly 5,800 freshmen come from China alone (attracted through brand new overseas recruitment initiatives), there seems to be somewhat of a challenge in deciding what to make of the situation – knowing that these international students contribute necessary funds to keep the university going, while battling the knowledge that their presence limits the chances for many in-state students to attend.

Even Chinese newcomers themselves are starting to question the impacts of the growing trend. Student Alison Luo grew up in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing. “Before I came, I saw the online chatting in China, with hundreds of people coming to the University of Washington,” Luo says. “I was kind of worried about that. I paid to study abroad, and it was almost like I was studying in China.”

Source: “International Students Pay Top Dollar at U.S. Colleges”. The New York Times, February 4, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/education/international-students-pay-top-dollar-at-us-colleges.html

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – And the list continues… More new visa rules in the UK and Australia.

Two of the biggest international student destinations – Britain and Australia – have recently announced more changes in their student visa regulations.

In Australia, the new changes, set to take effect on March 24, mean the number of assessment levels across a range of student visa subclasses will be reduced. In other words, it will soon be easier for students from 29 countries to obtain visas.

According to the Federal Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Chris Bowen, the changes will help around 10,500 prospective students, and “particularly benefit the post graduate research sector, English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students and vocational education and training providers.”

“It really is a terrific outcome,” says Universities Australia chief executive, Belinda Robinson, “not just for the higher education sector but for the Australian economy more broadly because at a time we’re seeing manufacturing struggling, tourism struggling, both primarily because of the strong Australian dollar, it’s really important for those industries that are strong to be able to step up to offset some of those economic implications.”

“And as well,” she adds, “the stronger our international education industry is, the more affordable education is for Australian students.”

The changes in the UK, meanwhile, are quite a bit different. Under their new rules, set to start within weeks, foreign students in Britain will only be allowed to remain in country if they’ve graduated from a university and have an offer of a job paying at least £20,000, or $31,500, from a “reputable employer” accredited by the national border-protection agency.

According to the government, the changes are part of a “radical overhaul of the student-visa system”, and reflect immigration minister Damian Green’s beliefs that “in the past, too many students have come to the U.K. to work rather than study, and this abuse must end.”

This news in the UK, unlike Australia’s, is being met with concern on the part of the nation’s universities, who insist that students should not be treated as migrants. With a number of other new restrictions already announced – including the elimination of the existing post-study work program (which gave students two years to remain in Britain) and an increase in the amount of money that foreign students must demonstrate to prove they can support themselves in country – it is worried that the changes could hurt the nation’s higher education industry.

In a statement, Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said that universities “are particularly concerned about limited provision for post-study employment in the new rules.” The rules, she said, “could harm the U.K.’s international competitiveness, and the competitiveness of universities in the international student market,” at a time when Britain is already losing ground to competitors.

Sources: “Changes to international student visas good news for economy”. The Daily Telegraph, February 15, 2012. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/changes-to-international-student-visas-good-news-for-economy/story-e6freuzr-1226271725888
& “Britain Defines Circumstances in Which Foreign Students Can Stay”. The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 14, 2012. http://chronicle.com/article/Britain-Defines-Circumstances/130784/

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Growing number of US unis receive gifts from afar.

Based on recent data, there is a growing trend in which more international alumni are helping out the American universities where they earned their own degrees.

Take, for example, University of North Texas alumnus and entrepreneur Charn Uswachoke of Thailand, who gave the school its largest gift ever – $22 million to support music, engineering and business. Similarly, University of Texas (at Dallas) alumnus, Indian industrialist Naveen Jindal, was recently partner in a $30 million gift aimed at supporting endowed chairs and fellowships. And these international alumni are not alone. Nor are they solely providing money to the schools.

According to experts, these individuals are also promoting good will between nations, and helping to recruit more students through word of mouth. All extremely valuable support at a time when U.S. campuses are struggling to attract the brightest students, modernize facilities, and step up research – all amid widespread cuts in higher-education funding.

“People often do not appreciate the impact of international students on the United States,” says Hasan Pirkul, dean of the new Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas (named in Jindal’s honour, in acknowledgement of the large gift he presented the school with). Addressing rising concerns surrounding the issue – including whether universities in fact lose some autonomy when they take gifts from donors overseas, and the fact that, in many cases, international student fees are essentially helping to subsidize financial aid for low-income students – Pirkul is quick to defend the benefits of these strengthening relationships.

“This is no-strings-attached money coming back to us and it is helping us to educate our kids in Texas,” he explains. “It’s true philanthropy.”

University of Arkansas’ vice chancellor for university advancement, Cristian Murdock, agrees with Pirkul, but adds that universities must continue to scrutinize both domestic and international donors, to protect themselves from criticism.

“I see the future of international giving growing,” Murdock states, adding that with states reducing funding and private schools growing more hesitant to continually raise tuitions, institutions are “looking under every stone”.

Source: “International alumni are filling universities’ coffers”. Star-Telegram, February 12, 2012. http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/02/12/3729579/international-alumni-are-filling.html

4) GLOBE TIPPING – The right people can make all the difference.

In travel, like many things in life, knowing the right people (or how to get a hold of them) can mean the difference between an okay experience and a great one. Read on for some tips about who to look out for… and how to get them to look out for you.

1. At luxury properties, rates vary according to overall occupancy, so a room that’s $550 this week (because there’s a big group), could cost only $250 next because nobody’s booked ahead. In order to snag a top end room for less, check to see whether the hotel you’re interested in has an on-site reservations desk. If so, call and ask the manager when, during your travel window, the hotel will be the emptiest and thus have the lowest rates. Then try asking something along the lines of, “If I come on that date, might there be a chance of an upgrade to ocean-view?” If you don’t take the opportunity to ask for a great room, chances are good you’ll get what’s left over after everyone else’s requests have already been filled.

2. If you’re celebrating a special occasion (ie: a birthday or anniversary), say so when you make your booking. Hotels often do something special to make sure your stay is memorable, so you tell your friends and return in future.

3. Looking for a special service or advice? Use the concierge at a top hotel, even if you’re not staying there. These individuals often benefit from the extra business, and can arrange for cars and drivers, procure hard-to-get tickets, and make recommendations from good restaurants to English-speaking doctors. Be up-front that you’re not a guest there – but try to make up for it with an extra friendly attitude and remember to tip.

4. If using a travel agent, book through “top producers” – travel agents who send the most travelers to a leading hotel or cruise are typically able to get you the most perks (which can include resort credits, complimentary meals, and/or even free upgrades). Be sure to ask an agent whether he/she is on any travel companies’ advisory boards, or look up lists of top travel specialists.

5. Hire an English-speaking guide – whether beforehand or on the spot. In foreign countries, the right guide can serve as your expediter and fixer, get you past lines, show you secret places, and help you find great bargains. Just be careful of being sucked into only going to ‘their friends’ shops (which aren’t always the greatest deals). If you want to go somewhere specific, be sure to speak up.

6. Check out BookYourAward.com to get the mileage-award seats you need without the extra effort – recommended by Conde Nast Traveler.

7. Also recommended by Conde Nast – consider signing up to CrankyConcierge.com, a site started by Brett Snyder. By monitoring your flights, the Cranky Concierge team can help come to the rescue if you’re ever stranded by an airline. Whether the problem is a snowstorm, volcano, or other, CrankyConcierge.com will do whatever possible to get you to a functioning airport and onto a flight out.

Source: “Wendy Perrin’s Golden Rules of Travel”. Conde Nast Traveler.
http://www.cntraveler.com/travel-tips/2011/11/wendy-perrins-golden-rules-of-travel

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