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Audio: UC Berkeley triples enrollment of International Students

21 November 2008 One Comment

By Will Jason  — 

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With California facing a record budget crisis, state universities are looking for money wherever they can find it. It appears that U.C. Berkeley is increasingly tapping one reliable source of dollars: foreign students.

According to final enrollment data released November 13, U.C. Berkeley has more than tripled the number of international students in its freshman class. This fall it enrolled 360 foreign students, about eight percent of the freshman class. That’s up from less than 3 percent of the class last year.

The move could bring the university more than $7 million dollars in extra tuition, because students from outside California pay more than three times as much as in-state students. U.C. Berkeley officials said money was a factor in enrolling more international students, but the practice also supports the university’s educational mission.

They said international students enrich campus life and help American students learn about the world. For international students, the most common home countries are South Korea, China and India. Many have already lived in several different countries, like Freshman Seong B Park, whose parents are Korean.

“I was born in London, and I moved to Korea for a year and to Austria as well as Italy and Greece, and now I’m just here at Berkeley studying,” Park said. “A lot of people in Europe know about Berkeley for their [outstanding academics] so I decided to choose the top public university in the States.”

Several American students say they like the perspective their classmates bring from abroad. Leah Wigington is a freshman who grew up in Inglewood, California, near Los Angeles.

“I’ve never really been around people who weren’t from California or who weren’t from my immediate area so it’s actually been really cool,” Wigington said. “I have a really good friend–she’s from Chile. I’ve met some people from Russia and Armenia. I even bought a world map because I didn’t want to be stupid and not know where other countries were, so having international friends, I think, it’s really enriching my experience here.”

But for international students, a Berkeley education doesn’t come cheap. Like American students from out-of-state, they pay more than $28,000 in tuition and fees per year, three times the rate for Californians. But unlike a student from New York or Arizona, they are not eligible for U.S. federal financial aid.

Min Joon Seo, who is from Korea, said his parents are paying his tuition but they are already worried about their financial future.

“They say they have enough money for now to send me to Berkeley but then they say they cannot promise for next year so they I have to get some sort of financial aid by myself and otherwise they will not be able to support me,” Seo said.

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