But the system might see fewer international students apply — and less revenue — if the tier system is adopted, said Lauren Ball, a board member for the N.C. Association of International Educators, in an email.
“A third-tier tuition for international students won’t keep them from coming to the U.S. — it will just keep many of them from studying in North Carolina,” Bell said.
In 2011, 2,888 international students were enrolled at UNC-system campuses — about 1.65 percent of the student body.
UNC-CH enrolled 86 international students as freshmen in 2012.
International students contribute different perspectives that prepare domestic students for the global work force, Bell said.
Despite rising tuition rates at UNC-CH, more international students are enrolling each year, said Jean Hughes, associate director of International Student & Scholar Services at UNC-CH.
It’s difficult to discern why international student enrollment is increasing, because students apply for varying reasons, she said.
International students tend to major in STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math — said Leslie Boney, the system’s vice president for international, community and economic engagement.
These students tend to stay because they’ve developed connections in the state and fill regional needs in these disciplines, Boney said.
State taxpayers have opposed suggestions to raise the 18 percent cap when it was proposed in the past.
And Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, said this sentiment is unlikely to change.
The system is responsible for providing an education for North Carolinians, he said.
The number of in-state students enrolled would remain the same under the proposal — requiring overall enrollment to increase during a time of scarce resources.
Blackwell also questioned the reason for lifting the cap.
“I’m not sure that a need or desire for additional revenue is sufficient rationale,” he said.
The board will vote on the strategic plan in February.
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