SOURCE: NextStudent

April 24, 2008 12:14 ET

Growth in Foreign Student Applications to U.S. Graduate Schools Slowing

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwire - April 24, 2008) - The growth rate of foreign applications to American graduate schools has slowed substantially amid increased international competition to attract students seeking advanced degrees, according to a recent survey by the Council of Graduate Schools.

The council, composed of 500 member institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada, found that the number of applications for admission to CGS-member graduate schools increased by just 3 percent this year, compared to a 9-percent increase in 2007and a 12-percent increase in 2006.

As universities in Australia, Britain, France, and Germany have bolstered their marketing and financial aid programs, the ability of American graduate schools to better attract international students is faltering, researchers found.

Kenneth Redd, director of research and policy analysis for CGS, told Inside Higher Ed that the slowdown was not unexpected, but the pace at which the slowdown is occurring is cause for concern. Applications fell "pretty sharply" at roughly a third of institutions responding to the survey, Redd said.

Applications to U.S. graduate schools from students in India, which had increased by 12 percent in 2007 and by 26 percent in 2006, were flat in 2008, as were applications from students in Korea. Applications from students in China increased 12 percent in 2008, down from an increase of 19 percent in 2007.

With students from China, India, and Korea accounting for about half of all non-U.S. citizens attending American graduate schools, the slowing influx from these countries in particular could create a significant void at American institutions. As all three Asian countries continue to expand their own postsecondary and postgraduate educational opportunities, their students may find even less need to come to the United States for their graduate studies:

--  China has more than doubled its number of graduate students since
    1998, as the government expanded the capacity of its institutions and
    improved quality.
--  South Korea has invested more than $1 billion in research and other
    projects in an effort to transform its universities into globally
    recognized powerhouses.
--  In India, the National Knowledge Commission has called for the
    government to create 1,500 new universities by 2015 to keep up with growing

In general, international students appear to be weighing their options. These students, who in the past would have considered schools in the United States exclusively, are now more willing to enroll at universities in destinations like Europe or New Zealand, or to continue their education at universities in their home countries, according to a 2007 Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education.

Faced with such fierce competition, the United States may need to consider increasing its financial aid offerings to international students in order to retain its historical leadership in attracting talented students from overseas. Currently, most grants, scholarships, and student loans from federal and private sources are restricted to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

If federal aid isn't available or sufficient, foreign students seeking financial aid may be able to finance their U.S. education with private student loans, which are sometimes available to eligible international students. However, since federal student loans typically offer more attractive rates and terms than private student loans, these private loans may prove more costly for international students.

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