JEDDAH: IBRAHIM NAFFEE
Published — Saturday 26 January 2013
Last update 25 January 2013 11:59 pm
China and Saudi Arabia pushed the number of international students in the United States to 764,495 in the 2011-2012 academic year. The number of international students enrolled in US colleges increased 6 percent, propelled primarily by a continuing rise in students from China and a recent surge from Saudi Arabia, showed a Nov. 2012 report of the nonprofit Institute of International Education. Currently more than 71,000 Saudis are studying in the United States. The number increased by 98 percent between 2005-2012.
The US Department of Commerce said international students contributed $ 22.7 billion (SR 85.1 billion) in 2011 to reviving the US economy. The number of Saudi students increased by 50 percent in 2011 alone, according to local media.
Saudi students can study abroad through enrollment in the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program that provides entry into the world’s best universities to pursue studies that lead to degrees (bachelor's, master's and doctorate) and medical fellowships.
The countries to which Saudi students are sent to study in the program have been selected on the basis of the quality of their educational programs and are subject to periodic review. At the moment, according to the website of the Ministry of Higher Education, these countries are: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, New Zealand, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, China, Malaysia, India and South Africa.
Saudi students favor universities in the US over those in other countries, due to their excellent academic programs. The Saudi government raised the financial budget for the education sector in 2013 by 21 percent, compared to that in 2012. The education budget accounts for 25 percent of the Kingdom’s public expenses in 2013.
A Saudi student on average spends more than $ 30,000 (SR 112,500) annually in university study fees.
“The Saudi government is keen to send Saudi students to the best universities in the world. The US universities represent a top priority of the Saudi government in spite of the high cost of living there. The Kingdom allocated SR 10 billion to send students to the US,” said Farooq Al-Kateeb, a former professor of economics at King Abdulaziz University and financial analyst.
“Saudi students in the US play a big role in reviving the US universities which currently face financial crisis. The Saudi government pays around $ 2,400 (SR 9,000) monthly for a Saudi student and more than $ 4,000 (SR 15,000) for a Saudi student who lives with his wife in the US,” said Yasin Al-Jefri, economic analyst and former dean of Prince Sultan College for Tourism.
“The US economy benefits from international students. Chinese and Indian students recorded a higher number than Saudis,” Al-Jefri added.
A survey, which was carried out by a website for Saudis living in the US, gave a breakup of Saudi students' expenditure. Students pay $ 100 (SR 375) per month for medical insurance. On average, they pay around $ 1,500 (SR 5,625) monthly as housing rent, $ 300 (SR 1,125) in electricity bill, $ 200 (SR 750) for transportation, $ 300 (SR 1,125) for food, $ 1,800 (SR 6,750) in study costs and $ 250 (SR 940) for personal expenses, according to the survey that involved 4,126 Saudi students.