Race over foreign students goes mobile: how tech can help you win

April 20, 2016 by Tom Groenfeldt

Although many might argue that in any case education should be tied to money, truth is that it significantly contributes to the overall economy of any country.

Take the United States, for example, where about a million students from abroad contribute to the American economy with $18 billion’s worth of tuition and $13 billion in living expenses each year, as per a recent research conducted by World Education Services (WES).

The Association of International Educators estimates that international students and their dependents contributed approximately $21.81 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Research from WES indicates that when it comes to universities, international students are not looking for a 'one size fits all' model. Universities and business schools hoping to recruit more students from abroad need to consider the motivations of international students from different countries, academic backgrounds, and economic sectors.

Chinese students, for instance, are more likely to have the financial resources to pay tuitions in excess of $30,000 per year, while the majority of Indian students have budgets under $30,000.  These differences in budget explain why Indian students prefer public institutions, whereas Chinese students tend to be more interested in private schools.

International students’ contribution to economy offset local students’ financial burden

It is precisely that amount, $30,000 that comes as the nationwide average student loan.

The 15 Economic Facts About Millennials report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, those millennials who do have college degrees are starting their careers with bigger student loan debt than previous generations.

That cumulative debt rose above the $1 trillion mark for millennials last year, making it the group’s second-largest category of household debt, according to the report.

According to data gathered by ‘eMarketer’, almost half (46%) of US internet users ages 21 to 30 have a student loan, as opposed to just 17% of those 31 or older.

These figures do nothing but confirm the increasing pressure on lower-income families which kids need to take out loans to pay for college. Financially impoverished parents can’t as easily use equity in their homes to pay for college anymore, while students are taking longer to repay their loans, if they do at all.

“We used to, as a country, invest in higher education because it makes our workforce stronger, it makes us more productive, it makes our citizens better educated about the issues that we care about, and it makes us a stronger, more prosperous country,” said in an interview with ‘Kansas City Star’ labor economist and policy analyst Catherine Ruetschlin, a visiting professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“But it’s increasingly looked at as an individual investment, for individual gain. And as a result, over the last two decades, the cost of attending college, a public four-year college, has grown over 100 percent, even after adjusting for inflation,” further adds Ruetschlin.

All points to the fact of how being able to attract students from abroad can help state universities stay afloat by paying the full out-of-state tuition.

Having efficient documents and ID verification processes in place help attract international students

Recognizing the economic benefits that international students bring to the host country, many nations, especially English speaking countries have set attracting international students as national target.

According to the findings from the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS), last year’s business school student intake in the UK from outside the EU “fell sharply” by almost 9%.

Business school leaders warn that prospective overseas students are being “turned off” by Britain’s post-study work restrictions. Instead, they are choosing other countries to study in. Consequently, Britain risks being ‘impoverished’ due to strict student visa rules

One business school dean interviewed in the study said: “The UK, as a destination, has become less attractive than the US, Canada, or Australia. This is largely the consequence of post-study work visa issues.” The lengthy and complex on-boarding process is not helping either, highlight other polled academics.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. a new rule just passed and published in the Federal Register will extend the post-graduation work authorization period for international students studying STEM fields in the country.

The new regulation focuses on the optional practical training program, or OPT, which permits international students to work in the U.S. for 12 months after graduation. Under the previous 2008 rule, students studying STEM fields were eligible to apply for a 17-month OPT extension, for a total of 29 months of work authorization. Now, this period has been extended from 17 to 24 months and enable students to apply for an extension at two different points of their academic career (after two different degree levels, e.g., a bachelor’s and a master’s), rather than only once.

Yet this enhanced regulation also comes with new reporting requirements for employers, students and university officials, which will be asked for a stricter follow-up of hours worked, training provided, ID verification and documents verification.  These new provisions have been added to protect international students and American workers alike.

Having in place the adequate technology – such as mobile ID scanners which allow students to submit the documents they are requested to when on the go – will surely help ease the registration process, ultimately making those academic institutions offering the state-of-the-art digital on-boarding more attractive t prospect students, regardless their location.

Despite the predicted complexity that new regulation might bring, foreign students and their families are certainly contributing to the economies of those countries they chose to go to study.

Allan E. Goodman, president of the institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes international study said in a ‘New York Times’ article back in 2007 that “These are foreign people buying an American product, and the Department of Commerce says international education is our fifth-largest service export, bigger than medical services”.