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Foreign students flock to the US [The Boston Globe]

July 7, 2008

By Peter Schworm, The Boston Globe

The faltering US dollar, which has steadily lost value against major currencies around the world, has produced a silver lining for foreign students, and the American universities that recruit them.

With every dip in the exchange rate, the cost of college for many foreign students has dropped in kind, a discount that has contributed to a surge in demand for Boston-area colleges and universities, college administrators, consultants, and higher education specialists say.

“Everyone wants an American education, but for many families the cost has been prohibitive,” said Marguerite Dennis, vice president for enrollment and international programs at Suffolk University, which attributes a sharp rise in international enrollment this fall to the exchange rate. “But now, the dollar has made coming here so much more attractive and realistic.”

Widely considered the worldwide gold standard for higher education, American universities have suddenly emerged as a bargain for a growing number of international students, whose yen, rupees, and pounds go much further than they used to. The influx is expected to reverse the declines in foreign student enrollment that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“We know as a general proposition that worldwide economic trends impact student flows,” said Victor Johnson, senior adviser for public policy for NAFSA: Association of International Educators. “If people are coming here for a couple of days to do nothing but buy a new wardrobe, it would be strange if the exchange rate didn’t affect their educational decisions.”

Many colleges in Massachusetts and across the country report sharp increases in applications and acceptances from international students for the coming school year, especially from India, China, and European countries.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst expects a roughly 20 percent increase in new international students this fall, while Northeastern University will enroll 17 percent more students than last year’s class. Foreign students will comprise nearly one-quarter of Babson College’s incoming class, after a 67 percent rise in their ranks.

“We’ve stepped up recruiting, and the dollar has certainly played a role,” said Grant Gosselin, Babson’s dean of undergraduate admission. “As the dollar decreases in value, American colleges become that much more attractive.” [Click here to read the full story]

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