The number of international undergraduate students at US public research universities increased dramatically over the past two decades, alongside concurrent reductions in state support for universities. We show that these trends are closely connected as public research universities relied on foreign students to cushion the effects of falling appropriations. The growing capacity in emerging economies to pay for a US education provided opportunities for universities to recover revenues from full-fare-paying foreign students. We estimate that between 1996 and 2012, a 10 percent reduction in state appropriations led to an increase in foreign enrollment of 16 percent at public research universities.
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