The Rise of International Education


Would you ever consider a foreign education? With the world shrinking in the past century, more students find themselves doing just that--expanding their options of earning a higher education by traveling abroad to pursue a college degree. The incentives are rolling in. From lower tuition fees to shorter programs, there are a myriad of benefits that young professionals choose to seize abroad; and countries all over the world are stepping up their game.

Central and Eastern Europe have become important centers of education that have seen an influx of international students.  In Hungary, for example, there has been a 21% rise in the number of foreign students enrolled in universities from 2005 to 2011.  Poland saw an even greater increase of 80% from 2005-2010. Tuition per year, in many cases, is under $20,000, which is a drastic difference from US tuition fees that are typically over $30,000, regardless if it's a private or public institution (except for in-state tuition).  Depending on the school one attends, the total cost of savings for a Bachelor's degree varies by tens of thousands of dollars.  Without the need to take out loans, this further reduces the total cost by eliminating the interest one normally has to pay shortly after graduating in the US.  

Another incentive to go abroad for education is that the length of time required to complete an undergraduate or professional degree is less in some countries. In Australia and India, for example, many Bachelor's degrees take only three years to complete as opposed to the four years it takes in the US.  Master's degrees in the United Kingdom normally take only one year to complete, which makes earning a more advanced degree more financially plausible and less time consuming.  Medical degree programs, which typically require a pre-med track in the US, differ in Europe, where schools normally take six years to complete a Doctor of Medicine program as opposed to eight.

The recent influx of students to Europe is a boon in the sense that some of those future graduates could be convinced to stay there as they seek employment, thus increasing the intellectual capital as well as economic potential of those countries.  Unfortunately, strict laws regarding visas and citizenship can create a roadblock.  There is also the fact that a competing country like the US has an amalgamation of different cultures, making it easier for foreign students to acclimate to a social life as well as find communities that resemble their own from back home.  On the other hand, US students are more likely to feel alienated in a foreign culture, especially if a country is heavily ethnocentric. Fortunately, there is an increase in the use of the English language and the familiarity of western style living in the majority of European countries.  This plays a major factor in trying to draw students into settling down.

One of the European countries with the greatest success in keeping American students after graduation is Germany.  Slightly over 10% of students claim that they would stay and work in Germany.  Their strong economy, one of the bastions of the EU, is one of the primary incentives, along with a time period of 18 months for a postgraduate to find a job--6 months more than most other countries. A prolific job market also reduces the concern of unemployment.  If an employer is willing to hire an American graduate, then the process towards earning a work permit can be pursued (ideally, followed by citizenship, should the position be permanent).  The path to citizenship has also become more streamlined, which is a great advantage for someone who wishes to reside within the EU.  Although dealing with bureaucracy and paying fees may prove to be a hassle, the end goal is definitely worth striving for.

Gaining acceptance into a foreign university once proved to be a hurdle for American students.  The US educational system varies from those in Europe and it was initially difficult to evaluate one's education when sending out entrance applications.  It was only fairly recently that European universities began to accept such test scores as the ACT and SAT.  American students are also able to bypass the relatively complex and cutthroat admission process, especially with the continual rise of college bound individuals in the US.  American universities do not always abide by the standard where only the smartest applicants are accepted into the fold.  There has been an increasing trend of accepting students who might not have been at the top of their class, but have been greatly involved in extracurricular activities or show athletic potential.  The annual rise of tuition may deter some from applying to certain schools, but the tide of students seeking a higher education cannot be stemmed, so there is a higher percentage of rejection as universities quickly fill up.  Foreign universities open up possibilities of not only earning a higher education, but a quality one at that.  Schools such as Oxford or the University of Munich are well esteemed and can open the avenue for graduates seeking employment.  With a multitude of schools to choose from, the fear of being refused admittance falls significantly. 

An enjoyable lifestyle coupled with good wages are some of the lucrative incentives to go study and work abroad.  Countries with high standards of living, particularly Australia and the Scandinavian countries, are known for population happiness.  In Australia, students are able to experience an atmosphere that is not only unique in regards to natural landscape, such as the Great Coral Reef or the Outback; but cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, that are urban centers with a vibrant nightlife. These cities are also multicultural hubs, thanks in large part to emigrants from all over the world coming to live on the continent ever since the first settlers arrived.  Students also have a good opportunity to work part time while they study, with wages near $15 an hour.  Scandinavia and some of the Baltic countries offer education very cheap, or even free, while also being situated near other countries in Europe that can allow for easy traveling and numerous potential employment options.  Learning a new language may be intimidating at first, but that is remedied by schools' efforts to cater to incoming American students.

Despite the increase of US students attending foreign universities, the US is still one of the top destinations for foreign students seeking higher education.  Medical students, in particular, are in demand with the growth of populations as well as the institution of changes such as the recent health care reform.  Unfortunately for foreign students, although their credentials can be evaluated to reflect a higher education degree, such as an M.D., they are still required to pass medical exams such as the USMLE, as well as repeat their residency and fellowship training, which takes several years to complete.  A lingering xenophobia can also bar international students from gaining employment if a preference is shown for American graduates.  These are huge barriers in trying to entice students or job seekers into coming abroad and it hurts the US economically. 

After the turn of the 21st century, the opportunities for a burgeoning population to seek alternate paths towards completing a higher education degree and consequently finding a lucrative career have increased dramatically.  Many individuals’ initial fears of earning a foreign degree, just to find it useless in the US, have been remedied in the modern day. The rise of evaluation services and greater international cooperation among schools have allowed for a standardized recognition of foreign credentials.  Although the majority of students today might choose to remain in the US to attend college, a significant minority of the population has shown the desire to broaden their horizons by seeking education abroad.

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