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Bank of Mum & Dad: Global int’l student funding gap revealed

While students turn to part-time work to support themselves at university, their parents take on extra work and borrow money to contribute to their education – but the funding gap is still quite substantial, a new survey by global banking giant HSBC has shown.

On average, students spend US $34,658 on their degree. Photo: Artem Bali/Pexels

On average, students spend US $34,658 on their degree, leaving them with a funding gap of $18,320

Part-time work during a university course was particularly common among the international students surveyed, with 93% reporting that they were in paid employment. This is slightly less common for domestic students (78%). International students had on average higher satisfaction and expectations towards their university degree, and so did their parents.

Parents reported contributing an average of US $16,338 towards their children’s education

Conducted on a sample of 10,478 parents and 1,507 students from all around the world, the new The Value of Education report revealed how students and their families pay for university and gauged expectations towards the value of tertiary education.

Parents all around the world reported contributing an average of US $16,338 towards their children’s education, ranging from $51,656 in Hong Kong to $5,560 in India.

The five top expenses that parents contributed to were tuition fees, food, transport, technology, and general spending money.

Most parents reported contributing to their children’s education from their day-to-day income, while others had specific funds set up – about 67% of parents with a child studying abroad said they had a specific saving fund set up for their child’s education, compared to 57% of parents with a child studying domestically.

Personal sacrifices such as taking extra work and fewer holidays were widely reported, while 35% of parents said they had taken on some kind of debt: the majority took out a loan, while others used their credit card or borrowed from friends and family.

However, despite the efforts of their families, students around the world experience a sizeable funding gap between their spending and their family’s contribution.

“Many HEIs in the US and UK are facing hostile political environments”

On average, students spend US $34,658 on their degree, leaving them with a funding gap of $18,320. This varies widely across the world, from an impressive $82,103 in the US to $4,318 in Indonesia.

The biggest drain on student finances are tuition fees, followed by accommodation and food.

Most students (83%) said they were working part time, and most said they did so out of necessity.

Over half of them said they were relying on part-time work because they needed extra money. About 43% said they were looking for extra work experience, while only 21% were on a mandatory internship.

As tuition fees are normally much higher for international students, it is unsurprising that working part time was more common among those studying abroad than for those studying in their home country.

The funding gap is a factor to consider for policy makers in destination countries, Studyportals‘ executive vice president of global engagement and research Rahul Choudaha told The PIE News.

“The widening funding gap is wake-up alarm for policy-makers and universities interested in attracting international students. It suggests that many students are finding it more expensive to study abroad,” he said.

“Many universities, especially in the US and the UK, are facing unsupportive and even hostile political environment for international students seeking to gain experiential work opportunities”.

“Work rights for international students is a highly potent policy tool and more universities and countries should leverage it to attract global talent,” Choudaha added.

On the positive side, international students and their parents were also more likely to report that university is worth the effort and expense, both in the short and long term.

“Work rights for international students is a highly potent policy tool”

About 81% of international students said that university was worth the money, compared to 66% among their domestic counterparts. The most commonly cited rationale for attending university was the same for both groups: securing their first job.

But parents of mobile students are slightly more confident that their child will obtain a well-paid job than parents with children studying domestically – they are also slightly less worried that university won’t prepare their child for the jobs of the future.

Students and their parents reported having slightly different views on the three most important skills the education system should focus on.

For parents, the top three skills to concentrate on for 2030 were problem solving, social skills and foreign language skills, while students chose critical thinking skills, problem solving and social skills. And while parents are divided about the benefits of AI and robots for their children’s life, the majority agrees that computer programming is an important skill in today’s world.

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