California taxpayers have slowly but surely been withdrawing support for our otherwise stellar public universities. At the same time, tuition and fees have tripled in the last 20 years. And yet it could be worse.

Wealthy foreign students have been stepping up to help subsidize higher education in a big way. A new report by SelfScore, which offers credit to international students, found that in-state students could be paying 34 percent higher tuition in fees if not for international students enrolled in select California institutions.

“This is more than double the rate of tuition increases at public four-year colleges and universities over the past five years,” according to the report. “At the University of California San Diego, in-state undergraduates would have seen their tuition rise by nearly 65 percent last year. In-state undergraduates at the University of California Los Angeles, Irvine and Davis would experience tuition increases of more than 34 percent, if they had to cover the revenue loss from international students.”

The analysis included six University of California campuses and six California State University schools — the state institutions with the highest foreign enrollment. The potential boost in in-state tuition assumes, of course, that taxpayers wouldn't make up the loss created by an exodus of foreign students, but that could be a fair assumption.

At UCLA, one of the schools examined, foreign students pay about $40,200 each year while California undergrads pay $13,518, the report found. Foreign students compose about 15 percent of UCLA's population but pay about 25 percent of the campus' tuition and fees, according to the report. 

If UCLA students had to make up the difference paid by foreigners, tuition would increase about 47 percent at the Westwood campus, the analysis found. At Cal State Northridge, a loss of foreign tuition and fees could translate to a 20 percent increase in costs for in-state students.

Nationwide, 1 million foreign students fill American university classrooms, according to SelfScore. “Not only do international students make up a significant share of the U.S. student population but they also contribute greatly to the financial health of those institutions,” the report states.

Credit: SelfScore

Credit: SelfScore

LA Weekly