Woo Chul Ro: Is a US University Education Worth It for Foreign Students?

Website of the Korean Student Association at the University of Michigan. Despite the troubles Woo Chul Ro is pointing out, the Korean students at the University of Michigan are smiling :)

I am pleased to host another student guest post, this time by Woo Chul Ro. This is the 20th student guest post this semester. You can see all the student guest posts from my “Monetary and Financial Theory” class at this link. This is Woo’s guest post. His first is “Woo Chul Ro: Affirmative Action by US Colleges is Troubling, But Still a Net Plus for Social Justice.”

International student enrollment of US colleges benefits the universities and the US economy, but it is causing an issue for the international students.

US colleges, including our own University of Michigan, pride themselves in enrolling international students and harboring an internationally diverse group of students on the campus. However, the number of international students is controversial because it may crowd out domestic students. But there is another problem with international students in US colleges–a problem for them. In terms of job prospects, they may not be getting their money’s worth. US students are complaining that they are being edged out by international students. But are even the international students being served well?

According to the Wall Street Journal article Foreign Enrollment at US Colleges Hits a Record, the international student enrollment in US colleges as a whole are constantly rising. As of today, 1 in 20 American college students are international students and around half of these international students are from China, India, and Korea. Since I am from South Korea myself, I would like to set the Korean students as an example. The Korean international students are ranked as the third among the number of international student enrollment by origin in the US colleges, according to the article. The combination of cultural significance of education and the belief by the general public that the US colleges teach world-leading education sends more than 60,000 students per year from South Korea to the US.

However, from what I have seen from this school, most international students end up eventually going back to their country after their education. Strict laws enforced by the US government make it much more expensive and complicated to hire international students over domestic students. This is causing an issue on international college students. In South Korea, many of these international students go back to their homeland and have trouble adjusting to the domestic job market. As a matter of fact, Samsung, the largest and the most dominant conglomerate in South Korea, explicitly announced that they will be hiring fewer students who graduated universities abroad due to their lack in efficiency. US education is biased towards how things work in the US, which means the US education may be of less value for international students compared to domestic students. This is not good at all for the foreign students. The domestic students being edged out may not get into the college of their choice, but most of them can get a job almost as well as if they had gone to a higher ranked school. But the international students often find it difficult to survive at the jobs in their home countries due to the unfitting education they received at a foreign university

I once heard a Korean mom interviewing on a Korean television “I would even sell my house to send my child to Harvard.” I think this is exactly what the US colleges are capitalizing on. The interdependent Asian cultures, like China and Korea (combined makes up almost 40% of US international students), think of US schools as a much higher level of education than the domestic education, which is why some Korean families are willing to spend more than 4 times the tuition of top domestic universities to send their kids abroad. However, their education in the US could be valued less than their domestic education. While the US colleges are taking high tuition from international students, this phenomenon could actually be hurting the international students.