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KAI RYSSDAL: It might seem a little odd to think of higher education as a commodity, but a study released today points out foreign students contribute more than $14 billion a year to the American economy. The number of international students here was up last year back to where it was before September 11th. Going the other way, the number of Americans studying abroad rose as well. But parents footing the bill might want to start paying attention to exchange rates.
Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.
JEFF TYLER: The number of American college students studying abroad has soared, up 150 percent, over the past decade. Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, which released the survey, says the weak dollar could make it hard for administrators to figure out future prices.
ALLAN GOODMAN: When you plan a budget for study abroad for a year or a semester, and you're planning it the year before, you are going to be hurt as the dollar continues to slide.
That slide is beginning to have an impact on student decisions. Austin College in Sherman, Texas, boasts that 70 percent of the last graduating class spent more than a month studying abroad. College president Oscar Page has seen a shift.
OSCAR PAGE: A little bit of a drop this year, and I think probably the weak dollar is impacting it a little bit.
He thinks higher prices won't keep students from going abroad. But they may not stay as long.
PAGE: Going for a shorter period of time, for a month, say, instead of a full semester.
Still, Page says students could consider the extra costs as a kind of investment. One Austin College student spent the past three summers studying in China.
PAGE: Right now, he's interviewing with a major firm for a position in China when he graduates in May. The value added to his degree is very, very significant.
Of course, foreign exchange students coming to this country are economically significant. Again, Allan Goodman.
GOODMAN: In the New York metropolitan area, the number of international students here contribute about a billion and a half to the local economy. That's more than the Yankees, the Mets, the Rangers and the Knicks combined.
Overall, international students contribute more than $14 billion to the U.S. economy.
I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.