Dozens of Asian students are dropping out of Inland Northwest colleges and universities because an economic crisis at home has left them unable to afford an American education.
Others are seeking financial help to avoid being called back home.
“It’s really sad,” said Ray Fadeley, director of international students for Gonzaga University.
“Kids went home for the break and did not return,” he said.
It’s too early to know how many students have not returned, Fadeley said, but he expects dozens who attended Inland Northwest schools may have been affected.
Economies in Indonesia, South Korea and other Pacific Rim nations have been derailed in the past month because of years of over-speculation, unsecured loans and unchecked growth. Everyone from investors to housekeepers has watched their money lose value almost overnight.
A spokeswoman for Eastern Washington University, which - at 400 students - has one of the largest concentrations of international students among area schools, said there has been no loss of students. About two-thirds of those students come from Pacific Rim nations.
Washington State University has called a special meeting next week for international students to help find ways for them to continue their education, said Susan Wohld, associate director for international students.
“This (crisis) is very unfortunate because students have absolutely no control over this,” she said.
Some Asian students at Whitworth College are seeking financial aid for the first time, said spokesman Tim Wolf.
Thus far, none of the school’s 96 international students have dropped out, he said.
Gonzaga cut tuition last month for needy Asian students by 20 percent, Fadeley said. But that only covered half their currency losses.
The loss of Asian students is painful for colleges and universities because international students typically pay full tuition and room and board. Should the economic crisis continue, it could cost the schools a generation of cash-paying students.
“It’s a big, big issue,” said Koichi Ando, Western Oregon University’s director of international education. “There might be a two- or three-year repercussion.”
Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane won’t lose any of its nearly 200 students because they all pay in Japanese yen, said executive vice president Hiroshi Takaoka.
But when that money and other operating funds are wired from the institute’s parent office in Japan, it is converted to U.S. dollars. That means the school is getting less money to operate, but must continue to pay employees the same amount.
“We are really depressed and discouraged about this recent trend,” Takaoka said. “We are telling our staff and teachers to save money” and cut costs.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Grayden Jones Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.