Morrison: Public colleges should make local, not Chinese, students a priority
A growing trend that has international students pouring onto college campuses here in the United States has Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) worried about the futures of students here at home.
“Illinois students are supposed to be these universities' main priority,” Morrison told the Prairie State Wire. “I know that there is difficulty among residents here to get a limited number of slots in the freshman class, and it’s been that way for a couple decades.”
At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for example, university officials have undertaken a plan specifically designed to guard against a drop in Chinese student enrollment.
According to MarketWatch, the plan calls for the school to pay out around $425,000 annually in insurance payments that guard against any steep or unforeseen drops in enrollment of Chinese students in the school’s colleges of business and engineering.
Providing up to $60 million in total coverage, the benefits kick in whenever the two schools suffer a combined drop in enrollment of 18.5 percent or more compared to the year before that is believed to be caused by “a political event, like a visa restriction, or some kind of health scare,” Jeffrey Brown, College of Business dean at the school, is quoted in the article.
“If you have so many out of state/out of country students coming in, it makes it more difficult to find space for Illinois students,” Morrison said. “We have to keep in mind educating state students should always be our top priority.”
The practice of recruiting larger pools of foreign students traces back to the days when funding from state governments to public colleges began to show significant decline.
According to Inside Higher Ed, when University of Illinois officials entered into the insurance arrangement in 2017, tuition revenue from Chinese students accounted for roughly one-fifth of the business college’s revenues. Last academic year, the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. overall grew by nearly 4 percent, the Institute for International Education states, adding that the country continues to be the primary source for international students matriculating on U.S. campuses.
A risk management and insurance expert, Brown said he recently heard from officials at several other institutions now considering a similar plan.
In Morrison’s mind, there are other options.
“I am in favor of giving the university the ability to cut costs, as they have done in Indiana at places like Purdue University,” he said. “I don’t think it has to come at the expense of students. At Purdue, the school is very competitive with the U of I, especially, its school of engineering, and they’ve found a way to make the finances work without local kids having to suffer.”
Statistics show tuition at Illinois state universities is already as high as 60 percent more than in other states, and over the last four decades the University of Illinois's budget has grown at a clip 13 times faster than the rate of enrollment while the president's salary has skyrocketed by more than 1,200 percent.