One of the ongoing tasks at Beyond the States is responding to comments on our various social channels and ads. It’s always interesting to interact with people who have been moved enough by our messages to share a comment. We received this message on an ad that shows a map of Europe the other day: “Yeah, funded by European taxpayers…” This comment represents a misconception that I’d like to explore. Are international students somehow taking advantage of European taxpayers by going to college in Europe?

Here are three primary reasons that international students are good for Europe and not taking advantage of the system:

1) International students pay a premium tuition compared to EU students in the same schools and classes, so the schools like them. For example, a non-EU student in the chemistry program at University of Groningen in the Netherlands pays 14,000 euros, while an EU student pays just 2,143 . EU students pay no tuition to attend Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, while a non-EU master’s degree student would pay 15,200 euros per year. I would say, rather than being subsidized by European taxpayers, international students are paying their fair share.

2) Unemployment is really low in parts of Europe, so the EU government wants more labor. As workers, we think that low unemployment is always a good thing, but from a macro economic perspective, which is how the leaders look at things, it’s only good to a point. In the Czech Republic, Germany, and Denmark,  unemployment is really low. This means there are too few workers chasing the open chasing jobs, which will drive up wages. When wages go up, a nation’s goods become more expensive to buy and fewer goods are sold, which is bad for the economy.  The European government expects that some of the international students who study in Europe will stay there post graduation to join the European labor pool. This is a win-win for the student and the economy.

3) International students also contribute to local economies when they purchase goods like groceries, housing, entertainment, books, and other things. In fact, the European Commission has made attracting international students an ongoing, key priority. They see that bringing students from outside Europe not only benefits the economy in the host country, but also contributes to the growth and competitiveness of the EU economy as a whole.

In the end, it’s about priorities. The EU sees internationalization as aligned with their long term policy agendas for growth, jobs, equality,  and social inclusion. I have to say, we do too!