International student numbers drop at U

The University is competing against hundreds of colleges across the country to draw international students to its classrooms.

Despite a large recruitment effort, the number of degree-seeking international students dropped this year, from 3,247 in 2005 to 3,205.

The University is still losing sought-after international scholars, especially undergraduates, to private liberal arts colleges who offer more scholarship aid, said Gene Allen, international student recruitment committee chair.

Part of the University’s strategic positioning initiative is to increase international student enrollment.

“We have to increase the number of international students because of the influence they bring to campus organizations and classrooms from the countries and cultures they come from,” Allen said.

One of the main challenges to recruitment is the affordability of non-resident tuition, he said. This year’s non-resident undergraduate tuition is $19,218.

Allen said the University offers just 25 $5,000 scholarships to international undergraduates. Last year, only 14 students accepted the scholarships; the other nine declined and went to other schools.

“Many of the students we were going after had higher scholarship offers from other schools,” he said. “This is a national problem for public research universities.”

Right now, Allen is leading an effort to secure more scholarship money from the University for international undergraduates.

“Competition for global human resource talent is much greater than it was 10 years ago with all the developing economies,” Allen said. “Higher education systems want more of these students for the same reason we do.”

Although the total number of international students is down, the number of international undergraduate students applying to the University is up, said Paula Brugge, associate director of the Office of Admissions.

“After 9/11, we saw a huge dip in the numbers of the applicant pool Ö and enrolled pool,” Brugge said. “We’re starting to come back to the level we were at in 2001.”

Over the past year and a half, the University has sent recruiters overseas to increase its visibility abroad – in places such as China, India and Turkey – and Brugge said it’s working.

But, she said, in order to get more international undergraduates enrolled at the University, more money must be made available.

“We can go out and recruit all the students we want,” Brugge said, “but, in order for them all to come here, we have to offer them some financial relief.”

Allen said the University’s goal is to increase the number of international undergraduates by about 1,000 students to 1,500.

Andrea Scott, director of the Graduate School’s Office of Admissions, said the University’s goals for international graduate and undergraduate enrollment differ.

Funding is not as much of an issue at the graduate level because the University offers fellowships and assistantships that are competitive nationally, Scott said.

“Total undergraduate enrollment is not where we’d like it to be in terms of number,” she said. “But (the Graduate School’s) strategy has been to attract the brightest and most highly competitive international students.”

The number of international graduate student applicants increased 23 percent from 2005 to 2006, but fewer international graduate students chose to enroll this fall.

“I was surprised and certainly disappointed,” Scott said.

But, she said, it will take at least a couple of years to truly evaluate the results of the University’s enhanced efforts to bring international students to campus.

“It takes a while to build relationships overseas that result in better attendance,” Scott said.

Brugge said she is optimistic the University will increase the numbers of students it attracts from abroad.

“We’ve always cared about our international student population and welcomed them,” Brugge said, “but I don’t think there’s been this much of a spotlight on them until now.”

Chemin Chu, a human resources development doctoral candidate and president of the University’s Chinese Club, said one of the main problems international students face is getting a visa for entrance into the United States.

“Because of the homeland security policy, many students will go to the United Kingdom or Australia where it is easier to get in,” Chu said.

He said he and his wife, who is also a University student, got aid to help them afford tuition. But he noted that many international students do have trouble affording college in the United States.

Of all international students enrolled at the University, Chinese students make up the greatest percentage.

Chu attributed this in part to the work of the China Center in attracting prospective students.