‘Best Buy’ Colleges for International Students

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American colleges and universities welcomed more than 1 million international students to their campuses in 2015-16 – representing 5 percent of all students – for a variety of reasons. Some, such as Harvard, believe they have an academic mission to educate the world’s future leaders, wherever they might come from. Most colleges value the diversity and skills that international students bring to campus and see these as integral to preparing U.S. students for life and work in a global society. And, to be candid, many institutions regard international students as a source of much-needed revenue, especially if they pay full tuition.


The Institute of International Education estimates that 75 percent of international students receive the majority of their funds from sources outside the U.S., including personal funds and assistance from their home universities and governments. To help make up the other 25 percent and to further their diversity objectives, many colleges and universities – but by no means all – include international students in their financial-aid programs.


Such aid is much more plentiful for graduate students than for undergraduates, and the number and amount of the awards varies widely. The only way to find out your particular chances of receiving financial aid from a college in which you are interested is to consult the school’s website or ask admissions officers directly.


Most Ivy League and other elite U.S. universities have the resources to provide financial aid to undergraduates they want to lure. Following are 10 other institutions known for welcoming international students and helping them financially.

Drexel University, in the middle of Philadelphia, offered almost $27 million in financial aid to international students last year. (Credit: Drexel University)

Drexel University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


A streetwise, no-nonsense technical university in the heart of the “City of Brotherly Love” with 14,000 undergraduates, Drexel tops the College Board list of U.S. institutions in how much financial aid (almost $27 million) it offered to international undergraduates in 2015-16. Drexel combines solid high-tech academics with an innovative co-op program that offers paying jobs. Its strong engineering college is the largest private engineering college in the nation.




Florida Institute of Technology

Melbourne, Florida


FIT is practically a branch of the nearby Kennedy Space Center and has become a go-to place for the study of aeronautics and aviation. Proximity to the Atlantic Ocean also makes it an ideal place to dip into marine biology and oceanography. When they need to escape from their computers, its 3,200 undergraduates can head to Disney World.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago, Illinois


IIT’s home is an urban, 120-acre campus designed by the famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The school is all about engineering with a bit of architecture thrown in. Though private, IIT is relatively inexpensive and makes financial-aid grants averaging $20,000 to nearly 700 international students each year. If and when its 2,900 hard-working students have any free time, Chicago beckons.


Macalester College

St. Paul, Minnesota


The alma mater of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Macalester is a small liberal-arts

college (2,000 students) with an avowedly international and multicultural view of the world. It’s one of only a handful of leading liberal-arts colleges located in a metropolitan setting. Macalester has a Scottish heritage, so you’d better like the sound of bagpipes. Financial aid to nearly 250 international students averages $43,000.


Mount Holyoke College

South Hadley, Massachusetts


Mount. Holyoke was a pioneer in women’s education in the 19th century and continues to be one of the most selective such colleges. It’s strong in the natural and social sciences, and one of the few colleges with a program devoted to leadership. Mount Holyoke is small (2,100 undergraduates), but its students have access to the riches of four nearby schools, including the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College. Financial aid to international students averages $33,000.

Northeastern University

Boston, Massachusetts


Northeastern’s 17,000 undergraduates intersperse academic study with co-operative education jobs that not only help them finance their education but give them a leg up on the job market after graduation. Located in the quintessential college town of Boston, Northeastern has transformed itself from a blue-collar commuter school into one of the fastest-growing universities in the country.

The University of Rochester, a private school, features a main campus in a suburban area of upstate New York. (Credit: Brandon Vick/University of Rochester)


University of Rochester

Rochester, New York


Located in the city that Kodak made famous, Rochester offers more than 200 degree programs but takes particular pride in the engineering and scientific fields, especially optics, and in its world-famous Eastman School of Music. More than three-quarters of its 5,900 undergraduates are involved in research programs.


St. Olaf College

Northfield, Minnesota


Well known for its music program – especially its globe-trotting choir – St. Olaf sends two-thirds of its 3,000 undergraduates abroad during their course of study and welcomes needy international students with financial-aid packages averaging nearly $38,000. Located in a small town that bills itself as the city of “Cows, Colleges and Contentment.”


Skidmore College

Saratoga Springs, New York

Nestled into a wooded campus that mixes Victorian with contemporary buildings, Skidmore is a liberal-arts college with 2,500 students. The visual and performing arts are a specialty, and science students have the fun of its 300-acre North Woods, a natural laboratory. Ninety international students received financial-aid packages averaging $57,000 last year.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester, Massachusetts


Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, prides itself on its global approach and emphasis on teamwork. (Credit: WPI)



Small, innovative and undergraduate-oriented (4,000 of them), WPI has pioneered in hands-on and project-based engineering education. It prides itself on its global approach – unusual for a technical institution – and an emphasis on teamwork rather than competition. Awards to 444 international students averaged $21,500 in 2015-16.



Edward B. Fiske is the author of Fiske Guide to Colleges.

College descriptions adapted from Fiske Guide to Colleges 2017, © 2016 FGC Associates, LLC. Used by permission of Sourcebooks.

Fiske Guide to Colleges is available for purchase in print or as an online program at www.collegecountdown.com/store.


Opening photo: Courtesy St. Olaf College