A business bigger than Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Netflix and Twitter combined, with revenue over $600 billion annually? According to the Wall Street Journal, that business is college and university education in the U.S., provided by 4,000 public and private businesses competing for customers. Where does this funding come from?
There is no national recipe for funding of higher education. Universities and colleges are funded by tuition paid by parents and students, state/local government budget support, foundation grants and donations, alumni giving, government/corporate grants, etc. The federal government awards need-based financial aid to students for education costs. Aside from tuition payments, these sources do not pay costs for international students.
Wartburg offers academic-merit scholarships and need-based grants to all students. Applicants submit their standardized test scores, transcripts and academic recommendations, plus information about their ability to pay(income and assets). Such scholarships and grants are a significant source of international student aid, but do not usually meet half of the cost of attendance. A few universities (such as Harvard, Grinnell) have the money to meet the full financial need of admitted international students. Wartburg College has a few endowed scholarships funded by interested individuals designated for international students, generating less than $10,000 per year in total. Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have national policies whereby tuition is paid by the government and most other costs are funded by low-interest loans. Students can use these benefits to study anywhere, putting Wartburg in competition with the entire world, because all universities want full-paying customers. Over the past 25 years, perhaps six such students have enrolled for a full degree and another 10 or so have taken a year abroad at Wartburg. There are some sources of funding for a year of study abroad, notably the U.S. Department of State, which grants one-year scholarships to students from nations of strategic interest to the US. These scholarships usually fund no more than half of the cost, with the remainder funded by the receiving university, in scholarships. Such programs have brought students from Krygyzstan,Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Russia, the Republic of Georgia and Azerbaijan to Wartburg College. Such programs sometimes open other doors. Uzbekistanchose Wartburgto receive 6 fully-funded students for degree programs. Wartburg College is one of only 100 universities in the US to receive $10,000 to $30,000 for each graduate of the 15 United World Colleges around the world who enrolls at Wartburg. This has helped to sustain Wartburg’s overall enrollment. International students’ visas permit them to work on campuses where they are enrolled, and they can earn enough to pay for books, personal needs, etc. So, the bottom line for international students, at Wartburg and elsewhere, is they need to find ways to pay for 25% to 75% of the total cost of their education, as do American students. High quality residential learning is one of America’s, Iowa’s and Waverly’s top economic activities, playing a major role in shaping the course of events in America and throughout the world. When we decide that we cannot afford the best education facilities, some other country, like China or Malaysia or Singapore, will take over this tremendous opportunity to shape history through education, research and technology.
David Fredrick of Waverly is a retired diplomat and college employee.