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Tuition costs for foreign students come under scrutiny by states

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State universities, strapped for funds, are reevaluating the amount of tuition they charge foreign students studying in this country. Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis signed a law Tuesday requiring nonresident aliens at state colleges to pay tuition equal to the amount the state pays to educate them.

Depending upon the university, this new law may double the cost of a foreign student's undergraduate education. The law provides a waiver for certain needy international students, and will not affect tuition rates until the fall of 1988. It will also exempt students already enrolled in state schools.

Concern has been building that states are subsidizing the education of too many foreign students - who, some say, come from affluent families overseas. Legislators also worry that these students may simply take their American education back home to benefit their own countries.

The Massachusetts legislature is not the first one to consider raising tuition for foreign nationals. Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas have all looked at the possibility of tuition hikes for nonresident aliens, according to John R. Wittstruck, a staff member of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

John Reichard, president of the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs, says the new Massachusetts law runs counter to educators' thinking with respect to international students.

He cites Florida as an example where support for international education took over despite attempts to discourage foreign enrollment. In 1981, then-Gov. Bob Gramm vetoed a proposed increase in nonresident alien tuition. Since that time Florida has passed a resolution in support of international education. In 1984, the state initiated the Latin American Caribbean Basin Scholarship Program that provides fellowships to economically deserving Latin American students.

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