Universities See Spike in Applications From Abroad

Nick Perry, Seattle Times, March 22, 2008

For overseas students, a U.S. college education has suddenly gotten much cheaper—and many more are applying to study here.

University of Washington officials say the number of foreigners applying to be freshmen this fall is up a whopping 40 percent.

And the UW is not alone: Foreign applications are up 32 percent at Washington State University. Across the 10-campus University of California system, foreign freshman applications are up 25 percent this year and 50 percent over the past two years.

The tumbling dollar, experts say, is one factor.

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Nearly 2,200 people from outside the U.S. have applied to be freshmen at the UW next fall, along with another 7,500 from other states. They are part of a record year in which almost 20,000 people have applied for 5,500 slots. Total UW freshman applications are up 12 percent.

But unlike many colleges, the UW limits students from other states and other countries to 20 percent of its freshman class. Consequently, those slots are becoming ever more competitive.

At Seattle University, foreign freshman applications are up 16 percent this year, to 304. Like many private schools, Seattle U. doesn’t charge a different rate for out-of-state or foreign students or limit their numbers.

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Interest from abroad

Jasmeet Singh, president of the UW’s Indian Student Association, said her e-mail box has been flooded this year with questions from India. Prospective students want to know about where they might live, the social scene and academic life.

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More diversity

Philip Ballinger, the UW’s director of admissions, said foreign students add a “wonderful diversity” to campus.

“All our students are richer for it,” he said. “The best thing is that it all happens unconsciously, often during fun, extracurricular activity.”

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China leads the way

Perhaps most striking in the numbers is the demand from China. At WSU, freshman applications from China are up more than tenfold in the past three years, and China has now topped South Korea for the most international applications there. The UW has received nearly three times as many applicants from China this year as from any other foreign country.

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But while many colleges are welcoming the increase in international interest, Green said, some are becoming more dependent on foreign students—and the big tuition dollars they bring—to balance the budget.

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