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Joe Guzzardi: Colleges Snub Qualified High School Grads for Out-of-State, International Students

College acceptance letters are in the mail, and many qualified high-school seniors will be disappointed when their first, and maybe second and third choices, reject them.

The most let down will be the students denied admission by their local state universities in order to give their freshman seat to a nonstate resident. The total number of freshman seats is fixed so university admissions’ departments must choose between state and out-of-state applicants.

Increasingly, preference is given to nonresidents even if they’re less competent for the simple but crass reason that they pay a significantly higher tuition; the national average for out-of-state tuition is $24,000 annually versus in-state, $9,500, a 150 percent premium.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block defended the favoritism when he told The Washington Post that: “They (out-of-state students)] pay full freight. They bring in huge amounts of additional revenue.”

That funding is key to maintaining academic excellence, he said, without elaborating.

The pattern is visible throughout California where State Auditor Elaine Howle rebuked the University of California’s preference for nonresidents. Howle’s report found that the system had purposely lowered its out-of-state requirements, and that it had “failed to put the needs of residents first.”

Parents have complained for years that they’ve been funding California universities, but even though nonresidents haven’t invested a dime of their taxpayer money into the state, their children are often given preference.

The in-state versus out-of-state problem is not unique to California, and is a sore spot with parents nationwide. Forty-three of the 50 universities known as “state flagships” enrolled a smaller share of freshmen from within their states in 2014 than they had a decade earlier, according to federal data.

Nonresident is an all-encompassing term that includes international students, highly coveted by major universities because they add diversity to the campus, a goal administrators seek.

The Institute of International Education found that during the 2014-2015 academic year, the number of Chinese students studying in the United States was 304,040, a 10.8 percent increase over the 2013-2014 academic year, a five-fold increase since 2004-2005.

Almost one of three among the 975, 000 international students is Chinese. Remember that, by definition, each international student displaces a prospective American enrollee.

While the international phenomena is generally perceived as a plus among academic leaders, a new Wall Street Journal story casts doubt about the presumed positive effect foreign-born students, particularly Chinese, has on other students and professors. The story’s headline tells it all: “Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on U.S. Campuses.”

Problem areas The Journal cited include the Chinese ill-preparedness for U.S. college life, limited English language skills that make it hard for the students to keep up, and difficult for professors to understand their questions.

The State Department’s F student visa enables soaring international admissions. Since the visa has no numerical limit, more overseas students will continue to arrive into the foreseeable future.

But nothing is limitless. Congress should impose a cap on foreign students that’s consistent with maintaining a certain international presence in American higher education, but that doesn’t shut deserving U.S. kids out.

— Joe Guzzardi is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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