Down the Slippery Slope—The New Commercialism and the Decline of Standards
By Philip G. Altbach
Two recent news items illustrate a sea-change in American perspectives on international education. A front-page article in the New York Times in February noted the dramatic increase in international student numbers, mainly from China, at the University of Washington, and that institution’s view that international students are primarily income producers. The other is an item on the “Not-So-Foreign” website noting that the University of Colorado, among others, is dropping the requirement for the SAT or ACT for international students because it may be too difficult for them to pass. The United States is truly moving into the era of the commercialization of international higher education. International students, particularly, are being seen as “cash cows” that can bring in needed revenues at a time of austerity.
Commercialism has never been absent from internationalization, but until recently it was not a major motivator for most institutions. That seems to be changing. The State University of New York system was of the first to announce that it sees international students as a way of subsidizing domestic students. Others are now moving in this direction.