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Joe Guzzardi: Getting Your Child Into College May Be Harder Than You Imagine

American students face tough competition from overseas students willing to shell out full out-of-state tuition

If you’re worried about your child being accepted by the college of his or her choice, the chances are that you’re underestimating the challenge.

Consider this story a surgeon friend told me. He’s a Notre Dame graduate who describes himself as a “major” donor. His son wanted to enroll in Notre Dame’s engineering school. The boy has excellent grades from a well-regarded high school and missed only one question on the math portion of the SAT; only five missed on the verbal. Notre Dame rejected him. My friend called the Admissions Office to plead his case. He asked if his son could at least be put on the wait list — turned down flat again!

My friend’s son may well have lost out to an overseas student.

With each passing year, hundreds of qualified American students are left on the sidelines as more and more foreign-born enroll. Recent media stories reported that foreign-born university admissions have increased sharply during the last decade. In November, the Institute of International Education issued its annual “Open Doors” report, which showed a 5.7 percent increase in students from abroad. In some schools such as the University of Washington, the freshman class has nearly 15 percent foreign-born. When questioned about this seemingly anti-American policy, university spokesmen claim that learning to work within a diverse community is essential in today’s global marketplace.

Citing globalism is just a cover. The truth is that colleges prefer overseas students because they pay full out-of-state tuition.

Even if your kid is lucky enough to get into his first choice, he’ll have to pay higher tuition during each year that he matriculates. Nationwide, college administrators have increased tuition for the past several years. Don’t expect any let up. Those same administrators have advised parents that they can expect more of the same for the foreseeable future.

The troubling pattern of shelling out more tuition money each year caught President Barack Obama’s eye. Saying “you can’t expect to jack up tuition every year,” Obama announced his plan to reduce higher education’s costs by increasing the amount of federal grant money available for low-interest loans and tying it directly to colleges’ ability to reduce tuition.

If Obama’s idea takes hold, the university then may say, “OK, no more tuition hikes.” But, in its next move it could compensate by accepting 250 more overseas students from the tens of thousands who apply every year. And, presto, just like that your kid would have 250 fewer shots at a freshman seat.

If this strikes you as cynical, remember that while university big wigs like to portray themselves as academics, they’re also cold-hearted businessmen whose careers depend on generating the maximum income for the institutions that employ them.

While he competes for the fixed number of university slots, other variables mitigate against your child. As the population increases, the odds against his acceptance grow longer. According to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state’s 18- to 24-year-old population increases at an annual 3 percent rate. Since 2002, the participation rate among the college-age population has risen accordingly. Similar trends are ongoing in most other states. Even without considering foreign-born, there are always more age-eligible students vying for a static number of places.

The solution is a combination of President Obama’s federal oversight approach and strictly limiting the number of F-1 student visas issued each year. Without those two measures, more American children will be denied their precious opportunity to get a college diploma.

— Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns — mostly about immigration and related social issues — since 1990 and is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). After 25 years as an English as a Second Language teacher in the Lodi Unified School District, Guzzardi has retired to Pittsburgh. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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