UI home to more foreign students than any public U.S. university

By The Associated Press

The University of Illinois has more than 5,000 international students, more than any other public university in the United States, according to the Institute of International Education.

University officials say the students add diversity to the campus, but some critics accuse the University of using international students and the higher tuition they pay to shore up the school’s finances.

The students come from 120 countries and make up about 13 percent of the 41,000 students on the university’s flagship campus. Ten years ago, only about 9 percent of the students at the UI came from foreign countries.

“The world is getting to know what the U of I has to offer,” Rajmohan Gandhi, a research professor at the University, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

University officials like Gandhi say international students bring diversity to the campus and prepare Illinois students to work in a global economy.

But some critics say the University is using foreign students – who pay far more than in-state students – to generate cash in tough economic times. And that, the critics say, limits the number of spots open to students from Illinois.

Foreign students paid $45 million to attend the UI last year.

“We are exporting our education out of the country,” said Girardo Rosales, an assistant dean of students at the University.

Rosales stressed that he was expressing his personal views and not speaking for the University. He noted that the number of foreign students is rising faster than the increase in underrepresented minority groups.

But University officials point out that 87 percent of freshmen students are from Illinois, a higher percentage than any other Big Ten school.

Two years ago the University announced a plan to recruit more higher-paying out-of-state students. The school ditched the idea after public complaints that more in-state students might be turned away as a result.

School officials say they do little overseas recruiting. The influx, they say, is due to word-of-mouth advertising by students returning home with degrees.

“This is a prestigious school in Korea,” freshman Yaebeen Na said. The 18-year-old is one of almost 1,300 South Koreans on campus, the single largest group of foreign students.