When Dubai opened the world’s most opulent hotel nearly two years ago, developers behind the $1.5-billion project threw what was billed as the most expensive private party ever. Members of the emirate’s royal family mingled with A-list Hollywood celebrities to watch the largest-ever fireworks display, signaling to a world reeling from the collapse of Lehman Brothers that in this small corner of the world, anything was still possible.

When Michigan State University shut down its undergraduate program in July — citing, among other things, the departure of overseas workers and their families, who make up more than 80 percent of the population — it was feared that other colleges and universities, too, would suffer.

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