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Community Commentary: American colleges are outsourcing education

January 14, 2012|By Chriss Street

American colleges have responded to harsh criticism that tuition rose four times as fast as the cost of living over the last 25 years — resulting in their graduates leaving school as debt slaves with an average of $25,250 in student loans — by trumpeting that the average starting salaries for college students with bachelor's degrees are still a healthy $48,288.

The only problem with this clever statistic is that the average student graduates from college with a liberal arts degree that pays only $35,508. The reason for the much lower average wage scale is that science, technology, engineering and math majors (STEM) graduates earn much higher starting salaries of $58,669.

Unfortunately, access is shrinking for these lucrative college majors as colleges are increasingly selling STEM classes to foreign students willing to pay an extra 152% in tuition.

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Of the 17.5 million undergraduate and graduate students in America today, about 690,000 are from foreign nations. A recent report by the Blumenthal Institute showed a 32% increase in the number of international students in the U.S. compared with a decade ago.

Not only are foreigners in search of STEM degrees attending our schools in record numbers; they are far more apt to pursue higher-level degrees than U.S. students. Foreign students now constitute 2.5% of bachelor's degree students, 10% of graduate students and 33% of doctoral candidates.

Foreign students compared to their American classmates at public colleges and universities pay an average tuition of $20,770 for "out-of-state" fees versus the $8,244 for in-state students; while at private institutions foreign students receive little to no financial aid compared with American students at U.S. colleges.

The Blumenthal's group report and others from the U.S. State Department try to mollify criticism of the trend of selling STEM majors to foreigners by boasting that international students inject $21 billion into the American economy, including money spent on tuition, living expenses and accompanying family members.

Recruiting for this rising tide of foreigners has become big business on most college campuses, who justify this practice by whining that without foreign students they would be forced to cut budgets due to rising costs. But as American colleges have welcomed greater numbers of foreign students, many students and their parents are questioning the ethics of the cadres of commission-paid recruiters colleges use to attract many foreign applicants.

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