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Colleges on hunt for foreign students

Competition is fierce because they pay 6 times higher than domestic students.

September 18, 2011|By Megan O'Neil and Joe Piasecki megan.oneil@latimes.com, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • Students walk to class at Glendale Community College. (File photo)
Students walk to class at Glendale Community College.…

Pasadena City and Glendale Community colleges continue to rank in the top 45 nationwide for recruiting international students, a burgeoning $20 billion-a-year industry that generates revenue, prestige and a wide-reaching alumni base for the campuses.

This semester, Pasadena City College enrolled 1,016 students on F-1 visas — issued by the federal government for academic pursuits — college officials said. It’s a figure that has remained relatively steady during the last seven years and has consistently placed the Pasadena campus among the top 20 community colleges nationally, according to annual rankings conducted by the Institute of International Education.

Jewel Price, dean of student services at Glendale Community College, described a banner year for international student applications. Her department processed 288 new applicants and enrolled a total of 449 new and returning F-1 visa students, a 30-student uptick compared to last year, Price said.

The Glendale campus in recent years has finished as high as 33rd in national rankings.

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“That is a lot of students who applied to, and chose to enroll at, Glendale College,” Price said. “The competition for international students is really fierce. We have campuses around us who are vying for international students to attend their campuses, well-developed colleges who also have a lot to offer.”

F-1 visa students are highly coveted for a number of reasons, not least of which is the unrestricted revenue they bring to the institutions they attend.

California residents pay $36 per unit to enroll at the state’s 112 community colleges, money that is funneled back to Sacramento. Foreign students pay approximately six times as much, with the revenue going directly into the college’s discretionary fund.

At Glendale Community College, non-resident tuition has generated between $2.2 million and $3.2 million annually during the last 10 years — no small sum for a college that has had its budget whittled down by $2.5 million in the past year to about $83.5 million amid the economic downturn.

“I don’t mean to sound crass about it, but the non-resident tuition they bring in is much more significant than a local resident student,” said David Nelson, director of international recruitment and outreach for Glendale Community College. “All the UCs and the Cal States and the community colleges are vying for the market share.”

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