The Risks of Internationalizing American Colleges

Kali Jerrard

CounterCurrent: Week of 03/04/2024

Will internationalization be the quiet revolution that takes over American higher education?

Neetu Arnold, Research Fellow at the National Association of Scholars (NAS), ponders this in her Tablet Magazine debut. Her well-researched and thoughtful insight into the internationalization of academia is eye-opening—and should put academics on high alert to the potential dangers of international partnerships.

Colleges and universities have become havens for many anti-American and anti-Western international students, and this internationalization brings a new flavor of protests to American campuses. Case in point being the anti-Israel activism on American college and university campuses since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. “So what changed?” asks Arnold,

The answer is clear to anyone who watched the videos: these student protests are no longer composed solely of left-wing American students steeped in critical theory and post-colonial ideology. The protests are now havens for foreign students, especially those from Arab and Muslim countries, with their own set of nationalist and tribal grievances against Israel and the United States. In some cases, such foreign students appear to lead the protests in their pro-terrorism chants—some of which are in Arabic, or translations of Arabic slogans.  

From 1948 to 2000, the number of international students enrolled in American colleges and universities increased from 25,000 to 500,000. But within 15 years, that number doubled. Arnold presents the alarming statistics, “Today, there are more than one million foreign students enrolled at American universities, making up more than 5% of the total student population. At elite universities, the situation is much more extreme: international students make up almost 25% of the student population.” 

Seemingly small in number, a deeper examination reveals American higher education's motivation for admitting numerous international students is twofold: first, they serve as “cash cows,” and second, they conveniently align with and fulfill college and university DEI goals.

International students are paying disproportionately high out-of-state tuition and housing rates compared to local American students. This money often comes from foreign governments, which should be reported to the U.S. government but often is not. And DEI recruitment, Arnold argues, “also provides universities with a moral justification for their equivocating response to egregious—and perhaps even illegal—acts by international students in recent months.”

NAS has done extensive research into the relationship between foreign funding and our colleges and universities. Already, we have uncovered ties with the Chinese government, Qatar, and other Middle Eastern countries. In addition, we have called out the lack of transparency in disclosing foreign funding by higher education institutions. Colleges and universities are technically required by law to disclose gifts of over $250,000 per year, but many find loopholes or simply fail to report inflow of foreign dollars, and there are usually no consequences imposed by the government. With no enforcement or accountability, comes the danger of under the table deals and risk to national security. 

Funding for international studies centers on American college and university campuses, sponsorships, and gifts always comes with strings attached. Students from China, Saudi Arabia, and others are either spied on or spy for their home governments—sometimes both—and do so because of nationalistic pride or fear of retribution to themselves or their families. 

The final straw comes when the internationalization of academia hurts American students and taxpayers. Though many international students are charged out-of-state tuition rates, many institutions will step in and offer institutional aid—which by 2016, was nearly 50% of American colleges and universities. The Ivy Leagues are among the top offenders. “[T]he average institutional aid for international undergraduates at Ivy League universities ranges from $44,000 to $79,000. The median percentage of international students receiving this aid is 50%.” It is worth noting that some public universities do not give international students institutional aid. Though some are starting to follow Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin’s crusade to subsidize in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. This is a direct affront to American students, who often plunge into life-altering amounts of debt to pursue higher education, while international students reap the benefits funded by taxpayer money instead.

There is no better way to conclude than with Arnold’s own words, “In the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion, higher education administrators continue to offer special treatment to international students—covering for hateful, and possibly illegal, behavior in order to protect a valuable source of revenue. It’s time for this dangerous arrangement to end.”

Until next week.

P.S. You can follow Neetu Arnold on X (formerly Twitter) to stay up to date about this research and other higher education news. You can also follow the National Association of Scholars and other staff members to stay up to date on current issues. But also make sure to read Neetu’s full article.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

  • Share

Most Commented

May 7, 2024


Creating Students, Not Activists

The mobs desecrating the American flag, smashing windows, chanting genocidal slogans—this always was the end game of the advocates of the right to protest, action civics, student activ......

March 9, 2024


A Portrait of Claireve Grandjouan

Claireve Grandjouan, when I knew her, was Head of the Classics Department at Hunter College, and that year gave a three-hour Friday evening class in Egyptian archaeology....

April 20, 2024


The Academic's Roadmap

By all means, pursue your noble dream of improving the condition of humanity through your research and teaching. Could I do it all again, I would, but I would do things very differently....

Most Read

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

October 12, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What is the True Definition of Latino?

What does it mean to be Latino? Are only Latin American people Latino, or does the term apply to anyone whose language derived from Latin?...

September 21, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What Does YHWH Elohim Mean?

A reader asks, "If Elohim refers to multiple 'gods,' then Yhwh Elohim really means Lord of Gods...the one of many, right?" A Hebrew expert answers....