Higher-ed funding idea: Charge international students more

UW has 6,000 international students.

Each fall, thousands of students from overseas apply to study at the University of Washington (UW) and other state schools. So why not charge them extra, then use that money to help solve higher education’s funding woes?

That’s the thinking behind a new Senate bill that could raise as much as $60 million over two years by levying a 20 percent surcharge on international students.

It’s one of a handful of strategies some Senate leaders are proposing to try to increase higher-education funding.

But universities say the fee is so high that it will drive international students away from state schools, leading to a loss of revenue — not an increase.

The fee “would make us seriously noncompetitive in the marketplace,” said UW spokesman Norm Arkans.

It “simply will not work … a further 20 percent tax will drive away numbers of current foreign students, creating a hole in budget revenues that will actually be larger than the unrealizable $60M,” said Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard, in a statement.

Currently, at Washington four-year schools, out-of-state and international students pay the same tuition, which is nearly three times what an in-state student pays. The higher tuition subsidizes in-state students.

Supporters of the Senate bill say it’s only fair that students from outside the country pay even more.

“The kid from Idaho, his parents have been paying federal taxes for years, so there should be a difference between what the kid from Idaho pays and what the kid from Taipei pays,” said Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Mercer Island, noting that the UW receives about $1.2 billion a year in federal grants.