Direct Economic Impact

Chapter 3 discusses the rise of global competition for students, especially among countries where English, the language of most scientific conferences and publications, is the dominant tongue. Some of those countries, notably Australia, emphasize the direct economic impact of international students, which, for economies of modest size, can be considerable. By one estimate, the inflow of fees, tuition, and living expenses from international students constitutes Australia’s third-ranking services export industry.40

Similarly, NAFSA: The Association of International Educators has estimated that higher education for international students accounted for US revenues of $12.87 billion in the 2003-2004 academic year.41 That figure is often cited in the press,42 but it requires interpretation. The NAFSA figure applies to all international students at all levels of study and includes not only tuition and fees paid by undergraduates and professional students but also expenditures on travel, food, housing, incidentals, and the cost of supporting a family. The NAFSA number does not reveal the intricacies of subsidies and taxpayer support for graduate education. An accurate revenue and cost estimate would have to take into account not only types of funding but also sources of funding and determinants of tuition waivers.

Tuition and Fees

From the data on annual tuition, fees, and average support in Table 1-3, it is clear that overall, graduate students are receiving more financial support than they are paying in tuition.

State universities may recoup some of the graduate-student support costs by charging out-of-state tuition for international students. Although undergraduate and some master’s students usually pay their own tuition through family or other sources, most graduate students do not. At the undergraduate level, international students on F-1 visas generally cannot obtain residence for tuition purposes and are therefore subject to nonresident tuition fees (NRTs) for the duration of their studies. US citizen and permanent-resident out-of-state undergraduate and graduate students are


Simon Marginson, “Australian higher education: National and global markets.” In: Markets in Higher Education: Rhetoric or Reality? eds. P. Teixeira, B. Jongbloed, D. Dill, and A. Amaral. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, pp. 207-40.


NAFSA, the Association of International Educators. 2004. The Economic Benefits of International Education to the United States of America: A Statistical Analysis. Available at


For example, see Joseph S. Nye Jr. 2004. “You can’t get here from there,” The New York Times (November 29).

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