Both online and traditional colleges, hit hard by the recession, are increasingly looking to court international students and establish operations overseas.
For traditional colleges and universities, international students usually have a greater ability to pay. At a time when tuition costs, already at astronomical levels, keep rising, and when a greater number of families are struggling on tight budgets and in need of financial assistance to pay for education, colleges must increasingly face the fact that many students will require aid. If the school has a need-based approach to financial aid, this results in many students not paying the full price.
In the past, colleges looked outside of their state or region to court wealthier students that had the means to pay tuition costs in full. These days, they are looking further afield. Despite our country’s economic problems, our education system is still the envy of the world, and smart and enterprising students across the globe seek to come here for college. Those who seriously consider all the costs of attending school overseas are usually capable of paying in full. For colleges, then, it is win-win: they can increase the cultural diversity of the student body while also padding the university’s coffers.
The situation for online schools has some overlaps and also some differences. The economic recession has hurt non-traditional colleges like DeVry University, which focuses largely on providing the degrees that are most applicable for the workforce. With unemployment high, and with no signs of an impending recovery, many people are eschewing colleges like DeVry. The school’s enrollment and revenues have suffered as a result. To boost both, the company is focusing on international expansion. It already operates in Brazil and the Caribbean, and it has now been hinting at plans to expand into Asia, with India being the prime target.
While India has a growing workforce and an economy that requires a range of vocational skills, its education system remains less focused on career training, especially among colleges that are more accessible to the average Indian. By expanding there, then, DeVry could potentially tap a very large market.
The move towards internationalization, especially among more online-focused schools, reminds us that it is only a matter of time before there are education companies operating globally, and maybe even colleges that offer an internationally-accepted degree. Costs would certainly be lower, since qualified professors could lecture from any country; the technology is certainly already here, in the form of the latest learning management system; and it would offer millions and millions of students around the world a first opportunity to get a college education. Perhaps the recession could have this long-term silver lining.