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University of California to raise Tuition Fees for International Students

Kashyap Matani

The University of California has increased the tuition charges for out-of-state international students. A 2.6% hike which equals to about $762 has been introduced for out-of-state residents after great deliberations. Naturally, the students in question are none too happy. This is the fifth time such a measure has been taken by the UC Board; each time more unpopular than the last. Tuition fees for foreign students wishing to make it to the University of California will now have to cough up an all-time high amount of $29,754.

It has been claimed that non-implementation of such a step would mean a gap of nearly $30 million in the budget.

Janet Napolitano, President of UC has come under fire for the price hike. The justification given for the increase in tuition fees is threefold. It would enable more Californians to get admission, incentivise more teaching faculty to join the family and help better the quality of education imparted. There seems to be a plus to the administration plan (adopted by a majority of 12:6) which is clearly in response to the backlash it has had to suffer—a portion of the money would be pumped in the scholarship fund, and for international students, no less. In what seems to be a bizarre use of the metaphorical carrot and stick approach, nearly 10% of the foreign students would benefit from the hike in the form of financial aid. This in contrast to the nearly 30% aid received by the locals, this figure sure seems puny.

Speculations have been made over the fact that the California universities have been staking their budget plans at the expense of international students. It is a fact that many international students apply to colleges abroad with stars in their eyes. Their expectations are high, and thousands of students work very hard each year to apply to the University of their dreams. Applying to UCLA is not anything less than a trek up the mountain, either. The application fees for international students itself is $80.

The irony lies in the fact that the extra money that well-to-do international students will supposedly bring in the future would be used as financial aid for their less fortunate comrades, which would ultimately tip the ratio of the population in favour of the former. This would mean that at least two purposes of studying abroad—quality and diversity—would be under threat of being disregarded.

Foreign currency valuation and devaluation is a real thing, and pursuing education at pretty much every foreign university would equal to spending boatloads of money. Scholarships work to a limited extent; they cannot help everyone in need. Also, we live within a system where purely merit-based applications are not nearly enough to cut it.

It is a given that getting into foreign universities is a matter of prestige. The United States is one of the most popular destinations for pursuing both undergraduate education and higher studies. Already most of the colleges—let alone the ones at the top of the hierarchy—have a tough screening process. The fees charged and the living expenses itself would burn a hole in many international students’ pockets.

International students bring in a lot of revenue to the market which is not limited to mere tuition fees. Often a university would have more demand from international students than ones from in-state. One would think that the Board would be wary of introducing any policy which would discourage the influx of international students. The fee-increase by the UC seems to speak otherwise, however. And the dissatisfaction over the same has been repeatedly expressed by concerned students.

Perpetually increasing student population and climbing demand is thrown off balance by cuts in state funding. Clearly, UC is not prepared to compromise on the quality of its services. So, it has adopted a strategy which is, unfortunately, a let-downer for some of their best consumers. UCLA seems to have charted a from-you-for-you course of action which they call the non-resident supplemental tuition.

However, it seems the University of California cannot win either way. No doubt it is the ‘Make America Great Again’ fever, but state legislators put a lot of pressure on the university to lessen the intake of non-Californians. UC did what it had to do to revive from the hits of recession. A great chunk of the international student-population is diverted to four of the nine campuses—LA, Irvine, Berkeley and San Diego—owing to a recent policy adopted by the UC regents.

The grievances of international students have to be addressed, and fast. What originally seemed to be the ideal destination for foreign education does not seem so attractive anymore. The Board has to decide how to tackle the paradox of balancing quality against cost-of-services which seems to exist in the complex field that is education.

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