COLLEGE
06/03/2010 12:01 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

U.S. Universities Losing Clout In Global Education Market

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor questions how well U.S. colleges are maintaining their position as the global "gold standard" in education.

With an abundance of crises facing America's higher education system, from unrealistic tuition prices to curricular cutbacks, it seems the U.S.'s college stronghold is weakening.

The Monitor reports that many high-quality American professors are leaving U.S. universities for ones overseas, boosting their rankings and possibly "fueling a crisis of confidence in American higher education." Universities in Hong Kong and Singapore are eager for U.S. academic talent -- and willing to support it.

What's more, international students in the U.S. are laying claim to a "disproportionately large" contribution to the American system:

In 2009-10 they contributed $18 billion to the economy, according to estimates by the National Association of International Educators. That's the equivalent of 60 percent of US Department of Education spending on higher education in 2008, and a little more than it spent on student financial aid.

Foreign-born students are also gaining ground in terms of innovation: according to the National Science Foundation, nearly 70 percent of engineering PhDs in 2006 went to international students, and the number of foreign-born entrepreneurs starting and running successful companies is on the rise.

Experts are split on what this all means for American schools -- will the recovering economy allow colleges time to rebound, or will it only get worse from here?

The Monitor boils down both sides of the argument:

The optimists hope that such changes are part of a revolution: that colleges and universities will become more transparent, politicians will recognize higher education as a pressing social and economic issue, and taxpayers will understand that supporting quality higher education benefits all.

Otherwise, pessimists worry, bright minds with shallow pockets will not get access to the education they need to develop into tomorrow's engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs; the US will be wasting its most precious resource; and, as Carey puts it, "we will have nowhere to go but down."

What do you think? With American colleges the way they are, would you consider going overseas to teach or study? Weigh in below.