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Saturday April 1st

International students could raise revenue

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article said the UNC-system Board of Governors proposed increasing the 18 percent enrollment cap on nonresident students at its January meeting while discussing the system’s five-year strategic plan. The most recent draft of the strategic plan does not include a proposal to raise the cap. Board members only discussed raising the cap at their full January meeting. The story has been changed to reflect this.

UNC-system leaders have proposed looking to international students for more money — but those students might not be willing to pay.

The system’s Board of Governors discussed increasing the 18 percent enrollment cap on out-of-state and international students at its full January meeting.

The plan includes recommendations to boost revenues and degree attainment at universities.

Under the proposal, international students could pay a higher third-tier tuition rate beyond the system’s current out-of-state and in-state tuition structure.

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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