Students around the world dream of coming to the United States for a high-quality education.
The high cost of education for City College’s international students makes this dream a tough reality, especially for those who do not have significant financial support in their home countries.
“I came to the states to study looking for new experiences, to improve my English and for personal growth, and I was lucky to have my family support, but some people don’t in my case,” said Aniela Villafan, an international student from Mexico. “I pay more than three times what a regular student has to pay. Those high fees seem unfair to me; we just want better education and better opportunities.”
Most of these students depend on their family’s income or savings to finance tuition and living expenses. For example, to be accepted into City College requires a minimum of $29,200 liquid assets to cover at least one year of expenses.
Community colleges are the most affordable option. Yet for families that use currencies other than the dollar, the amount of money can be challenging to reach the requirements of student applications.
Analysis of 18 Bay Area community colleges shows tuition and enrollment fees average about $335 per unit for foreign students. Foothill College in Los Altos and San Joaquin Delta Valley College in Stockton are the most affordable, at $283 and $324 respectively.
The most expensive on this list are Sacramento City College at $395 and College of Marin and Napa Valley City College at around $370, according to online information.
Comparing the top five cheapest colleges in this list shows a tremendous difference between the tuition and fees for California residents and international students.
At City College, an international student pays seven times more tuition than a regular local student, factoring for the $17 decrease in the tuition for international and out-of-state students for summer 2022.
“In the U.S., tuition is more expensive than almost anywhere else,” former international student Alexander A. said. “You also end up paying out-of-state tuition when you are an international student. There is also a good chance that you don’t know anyone where you live and therefore have to pay rent on top of that.”
To maintain the status, international students must enroll full-time in at least 12 units per semester. In the case of City College, that’s about $4,068 just for tuition and enrollment, not including the mandatory health insurance fee and other student fees that sometimes add more than $1,200 to the total cost.
“I think the fees are too high, and the fact that we are paying in a different currency than their own makes it much more difficult. International students incur more expenses, such as insurance and living expenses,” said Manuela Montoya who’s from Colombia.
Article 26 of the U.N. Human Rights says that “Higher education shall be equally accessible to all.” However, the considerable differences in fees between local and international students from low-income countries confirm it to be unequal. Higher education is not yet accessible to everyone, and while it is a human right, it is treated like a big business.
“I wish we could have more affordable options; we all deserve the same level of education and opportunities,” Paula Ortega, who’s also from Colombia, said. “It is unfortunate to see many talented people who cannot have the same education level because of economic matters.”
Foreign students contribute not only to the school finances but also to the U.S. economy, bringing a significant boost to economic growth and employment opportunities each year.
A recent National Association of Foregin Student Advisers economic analysis on the benefits of international students shows that, in the 2020-2021 academic year, foreign students contributed more than $28 billion to the U.S. economy and fostered more than 300,000 jobs.
According to the report, for every three international students, one U.S. job is created by spending in higher education, housing, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, health insurance sectors and other sectors.
What’s more, these students bring more than money: they diversify colleges by providing new ideas and perspectives.
“International students bring a great component because they have a different perspective and wider observation of life, their culture, and customs, even their language is different! They come with more of an open mind, they come ready to learn!” said Andrea Medina, a Broadcast Electronic Media Arts professor at City College.
This article was produced for JOUR 35: Data and Multimedia Journalism Spring 2022 semester with guidance from instructor Alex Mullaney and editing from The Guardsman.