The Economics of Foreign Students

A fundamental theme of this essay is that the economic implications of foreign students in U.S. institutions of higher education cannot be assessed independently of the broader economic context and status of the higher education sector. This broader context has undergone a succession of major, even radical, changes over the last two decades and confronts major further changes over the foreseeable future. As a result, the economic implications of foreign students, for institutions and for the system of higher education as a whole, have changed markedly.

A second major theme is that foreign students do not represent a homogeneous group, that the implications of foreign students of one type (identified, e.g., by level and field of study) are not identical to those of another type. Moreover, the economic implications of different categories of foreign students may be changing in quite different ways and by very different magnitudes in the various diverse components of the U.S. higher education system.