The Price Tag for International Students

Remysell Salas
11 min readFeb 1, 2018


Immigration stimulates the US economy

Internationalization has proven to be the modern wonder in higher education. In fact, this phenomenon was established hundreds of years ago, however, it wasn’t until a few years ago, that it truly became an active practice for universities. Within the past two decades the flow of foreign students and faculty members had increased substantially, in essence creating a more connected world. Furthermore, Janne Carlsson, Han Peter Jensen, Per Nyborg, Pall Skulason, and Paavon Uronen (2009) mentions “Internationalization has been seen as a central element in the quality reform; co-operation and the exchange of students and staff is believed to be a central element in quality improvement” (p. 17). Considering the above stated, universities have adopted the practice of increasing their appeal internationally which in turn, will work to bolster their academic rank. Internationalization has become more of a strategic goal for universities at large. The rise of internationalization can be attributed to the collaborative efforts of a number of stakeholders. For instance, Nations and universities to work hand in hand to make it possible to increase the exposure of global collaboration.

Internationalization is a term that has evolved and grown with time. The term was originally an economic expression for entities expanding internationally but now internationalization can be used in other various industries. Despite how it is defined and altered over the years, it has been a topic that has received a lot of attention over the last 10 years and how it has been reshaping higher education. Although the internationalization is not well defined and very neutral from the perspective of any position involved, the concept of international integration is to improve intercultural, quality and equity in higher education. Marijk van der Wende suggests the definition for internationalization can be explained as “any systematic, sustained effort aimed at making higher education responsive to the requirement and challenges related to the globalization of societies, economy and labor markets” (1997, p. 19).

However, the manner in which higher education is implemented today is remarkably different from past decades. Today, a significant portion of collegiate students comes from Asia, Africa, Scandinavia, Australia, Western and Eastern Europe as well as the United States. 2 More importantly, universities endorse a multi-cultural sensibility, which in turn has worked to increase a more diverse student body. Internationalization can potentially foster cultural understanding, which can contribute to a given student’s ability to compete in the global market. Internationalization in higher education has been more than just a trend; instead, it is a major focal point for universities around the world. Global higher education is composed of various programs, which encompass; study abroad, student exchange, international admissions and outsourced campuses (New York University in Shang hi, Dubai, South America and Europe) (Daley, 2011). This phenomenon has the potential to foster global tolerance and more importantly, elevated knowledge for talented and competitive students. The two universities referenced and researched for the purpose of this study are the University at Albany and the University of Oslo. Internationalization is a great instrument to improve academia in quality, equity and by uniting the world. However, capitalistic motivations could stain education as a human right. The overall goal of this study is to amplify the lenses of awareness of the driving forces and formation of international education.

Aim of the Study

The study will investigate the motives and strategies behind internationalization in higher education. Common perceptions that drive internationalization in higher education are financial, competitive and quality driven reforms. Financially it has been triumph for universities for the reason that profits earned maintain and create avenues for international education to expand further. Also with better recruitment strategies for better resources to increase competition and appeal providing a positive feature for global ranks and quality in academia.

The study was conducted at the University at Albany, also known as UAlbany (USA) and UiO (Norway). This comparative study was selected because both universities demonstrate how international education can be operated differently for the same goal with distinctive agendas. Internationalization can unite the world by educating students of all cultures, thus displaying a new era of higher education.

The study can be divided into two areas of observation, first the rationales and second the strategies, which explains why internationalization as merged as a phenomenon in post- — 3 secondary education. Using the four factors model approach it demonstrates the foundation for international education:

I. Economic: The benefits and potential revenues that can be generated, labor markets, investments and returns in universities.

II. Social/Cultural: Cultural understanding and network building among universities.

III. Academic: Academic quality and the equity in higher education, international curriculum, international research and teaching.

IV. Political: Foreign relations, policy and diplomacy that assist universities to build effective partnerships (Teferra and Knight, 2008).

The second major focus is the strategic efforts utilized by universities to attract certain students. Both UAlbany and the UiO have recently instituted strategic plans to increase the international research. Both universities emphasize their efforts to amplify strategic goals by articulating their recruitment agendas, international curriculum and extending partnerships possibilities. Strategies are the execution of the goals put in place.

Currently, the international student population at the University at Albany is at least ten percent and representing over 100 nations with partnerships from both hemispheres of the world (University at Albany Office of International Education, 2012). For the UiO, international students also hold 10 percent of the student population and with research being conducted at all eight faculty departments (University of Oslo, 2011b). These statistics display that international students have an important presence in these two campuses with students coming from all backgrounds. Furthermore, it demonstrates the importance of global partnerships allowing universities to expand their own students to new horizons.

It is important to know what the factors are and the position held by stakeholders at every level. This research will provide another angle in the study of internationalization on how rationales and strategies differ from universities to universities and from nations to nations.

I hope to influence the way internationalization is managed and implemented from a capitalistic approach to a human rights capability. I will demonstrate how two different institutions, from different nations, try to increase the rate of internationalization with 4 distinctive motivations. Education should not be prioritize by economic influences but viewed as a factor in the improvement in the societies, institutions and the nations.


As an undergraduate student in the University at Albany, I have often noted that the price of education was rather exorbitant. During my final years of schooling I opted to study abroad at the University of Oslo; I soon learned that there was no tuition cost. While I was extremely grateful for the opportunity, I could not help but to question this difference. It was then that I decided I would explore international education further and stark the difference between both universities.

This topic was of particular interest to me as I consider myself a product of international education, although, I was not aware of studying abroad until late, as a collegiate level student. In retrospect; I can acknowledge and appreciate the impact it has had on my life. During the second semester of my junior year at the University at Albany, I enrolled in courses outside of the United States, which granted me the opportunity to experience studying abroad. As an international student, I attended two universities, where I was able to observe how diversely each institution operated their respective international programs. One thing I noticed was the strong emphasis on the encouragement for students to participate in international education. In my personal experience, I have noted that I was impacted positively, as a recipient of international education I became academically motivated as well as eager to explore distinctive cultures and nations.

I specifically selected the University at Albany because it holds a high activity of international student and faculty/staff members. As an undergraduate, I came across students from all walks of life that provided a positive international student presence on campus. For instance, my professor was a former British solider in the Second World War and the Cold War and another that experienced the first hand of the South African Apartheid. The international faculty taught us much more than any textbook, where it enhanced the academic quality by having professors that have direct experience in the subject they teach.

While at the SUNY Albany, I had the privilege to attend classes with students from across the Atlantic, with different perspectives on certain subjects, which also helped me expand my perspective on foreign cultures outside of the United States. I came across a student from Sweden who spoke to me about his experience growing up in Scandinavia, as well as his exposure to international students from other countries. His experience inspired me to see more of the world and learn from the world not just through literature.

My interest to study in the UiO was based on exposure obtained from international students, literatures materials, and experience studying abroad. One of the aspects of many domestic students in the UiO was how they embraced the international student population on Campus. Observing the manner of the international student body and the international office of the UiO, I could not help but compare it to my experience at the University at Albany. In comparing the two universities I wondered what was the motives for desiring a more international student body.

During a trip to France with my master’s program we attended a seminar by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), where they expressed the importance of education, cultural understanding, and global education. At the UNESCO conference they articulated the positive effects of international education has had and how it can continue to shape world. The seminar’s sparked an interest that confirmed internationalization as the topic of choice for this thesis.

Challenges in Internationalization

With the increase in demand of international scholars within recent years, a number of challenges have formed, thus creating roadblocks to the development of internationalization. For instance, funding is a major concern at both ends for domestic and foreign students to study abroad because of the diminishing government funding. Hayward also indicates “Federal Funding for almost all postsecondary international areas has declined over the last decade. This includes support for educational and cultural exchanges, language study, and faculty research, as well as a number of other international initiatives” (2000, p. 3). This has 13 been a real challenge for universities as the demand for a greater international presence is on the rise and the funding for such aims are decreasing.

An additional challenge is that security measures have become far more stringent; making it a burden for many nations and scholars to travel to certain regions to obtain a J-1 (school or faculty visa), creating social exclusion based on assumptions of security issues. Despite the highly regulated process of obtaining a visa, the rate of international education has not waned. The new security procedures have risen in number of ways with more security questions, criminal background checks, and notification that immigration documents should be carried at all times as well as finger printing (Nolo: Law for All, 2007). However, certain regions maybe excluded because of political and national conflicts, which can damper the international knowledge system, that is begin developed.

An additional challenge that arose was the issue of what is considered accurate education knowledge. Some universities do not believe in western teachings and this creates a struggle with those universities in those nations. The University at Albany has a low rate of collaboration with universities from the Middle Eastern region of the world. If we want to achieve a successful global knowledge network, I believe all regions; nations and universities should be involved.

However political issues and past historical events can create an issue in future collaborations between universities by putting a damper on the process of internationalization, for instance the travel ban on muslim countries by the Trump administration.

Theoretical Framework

Perspective: Rationales

1. Social/ Cultural: [Cultural Identity, Intercultural Understanding, Citizenship and National Development] Relates to the exchange of cultures and social openness among nations. The goal for universities is to increase the knowledge of cultural exchanges and experience in their home university. Knight and De Wit argued, “Even student who never leave their own country are affected by the impact of our globalized society and economy” (1995, p. 13). Cultural identity is an objective of internationalization, where it is not just foreign students coming to your home university but domestic students displaying their national identity abroad. This also serves as an educational medium, in that; domestic students are able to learn through the eyes of international students. This as a result can serve in fostering knowledgeable citizens who can catalyze a more secure economic future producing skilled workers, entrepreneurs and employment opportunities; Knight states “Related to this point is the need for improved intercultural understanding and communication. The preparation of graduates who have strong knowledge and skill base in intercultural relations and communications are considered by many academics as one of the strongest rationales for internationalizing the teaching/learning experience of students in undergraduate and graduate programs” (Knight, 1997, p.11). Cultural and social factors are not just making a difference for the students at the university but the people in there society.

2. Academic: [International Academic Standards, Research and Teaching, Institution Building, Campus-Based Internationalization, Competitiveness and Cross Border Education] Knight’s perspective on how academic factors relate to the endeavors in higher education is imperative to this study. Her perspective focuses on increasing the quality of the academic experience. The preparation of graduates to be national and global citizens is the goal. In order to appropriately gage an institution’s academic quality one must consider its international standards in research and teaching (Qiang, 2003). International diversity is important, for students to be exposed to external customs and to make the campus an image of 17 the world. The author Qiang stated “Linked to the notion of enhancing the quality of education is the idea that internationalization is often a positive change agent for institutional building. International activities may serve as catalyst for major institutional planning/review exercises, or help with institution building through the enhancement of the human, technical or management infrastructure system” (2003, p. 253). International students can improve the quality and the competitiveness at a university. Enrolling international students with greater knowledge levels in a specific subject area can amplify how other student’s work and learn in the classroom. An international curriculum involves a recruitment of faculty, staff and students from all over the world.

3. Political: [Foreign Policy, Ministry of Education, National Security, National and Regional Understanding] Knight explains how education is an important element in foreign policy and international relations among nations. The investment in international education was a way to develop future global leaders to create a better diplomatic future, improve external relations, establish business relations internationally, and invert diplomacy efforts. Her approach displayed the importance that internationalization has played in the nation’s outlook. By playing an important role in the improvement in policies in security, stability and peace. The improvement in foreign relations is a vital factor to the world at large, as peace and mutual understanding between nations will create a better global society and can be a vehicle for a better tomorrow.

4. Economic: [Labor Market, Economic Growth and Financial Incentives] Higher education is directly related with the economic rationale as it can be seen as the method for the production of skilled workers. We can look at the example of the United States with Silicon Valley in California where, foreign students established 521,963 of high tech jobs in 2001 and added $ 57.7 billion to the national economy (Mann and Nunes, 2009, para. 8 and table 1). These results illustrate the importance of foreign influence on today’s economy, for example the United States. As well as stakeholders stand to benefit financially, such as the faculty members and students who contribute a higher rate of tuition. Also student’s expenses of daily living are financially rewarding for the domestic university. Internationalization in higher education can also be the first step for future trade relations and business partnerships because the university alumni network extends borders and established positive foreign relations.

Investment in education internally and abroad is essential for the future of higher education. My argument is that political agendas have put a dapper in the growth globally that can help us with foreign policy and peace efforts.

“Education is key towards making the world spin better”

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Remysell Salas

Rémy is a professor at CUNY for the Dept. of Ethnic and Race Studies. He lectures courses on politics, Caribbean identity, immigration, and NYC history.