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Asian Market Impacts International Students
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Thousands of miles from the Asian financial crises, Mississippi university students are feeling the pinch.
Dr. Bill Herndon, agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said some foreign currencies have plummeted in the last six months. The countries most affected include Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Philippines and Singapore.
"For example, since August 1997, the Indonesian rupiah has lost about 76 percent of its value to the U.S. dollar," Herndon said. The impact is significant on students from those countries who are studying in the United States.
Helen Zuercher, director of the international services office at MSU, said the government recently lifted restrictions on the number of hours some internationals can work each week, but they must demonstrate the need for additional income.
The guidelines for this exception are narrowly defined and a student must be certified as qualifying for the additional work. Students who cannot demonstrate that financial need will likely carry heavier class loads to finish their education more quickly.
"Future students probably will do a larger percentage of their studies at home before coming to U.S. schools," Zuercher said. "Scholarships from Asian governments and businesses will be less frequent."
While it is still too early to measure the impact of the financial crisis, Zuercher said fewer international students hurt everyone.
"A diverse student population benefits everyone. We learn so much from other cultures," she said. "Education is also an important export for our country's economy. The United States sells education."
Zuercher said Mississippi receives $21 million from international students before any multiplier effect is applied. Nationally, international students contribute $7 billion to the U.S. economy.
"Internationals also bring intangible things with them. They teach Americans about foreign cultures, help us learn to appreciate differences and bring a certain flare to our world," Zuercher said. "Many will return to their home countries and become someone important. You never know when one of these students will become a decision maker in his or her country."
Ranee Surakarnkul, a graduate student from Thailand, said the economic crisis will likely reduce the number of students from her country studying in America. She said fewer and reduced grants are available.
"I am eating out less trying to conserve my money. We have to save more for the future because no one can guarantee when (the economic situation) will get better," she said.
Contact: Helen Zuercher, (601) 325-8929