Int’l students boost grad enrollment

Both nationwide and at the University, foreign students are filling up grad schools.

by Benjamin Farniok

International students have generated more than two-thirds of the recent growth in graduate enrollment, according to a new report.
The Council of Graduate Schools, a national group that works to improve graduate education and research, published a report earlier this month showing that international students are coming to American universities in increasing numbers. Foreign student enrollment increased by 11.2 percent from 2013 to 2014 — accounting for two-thirds of
the 0.4 percent in total 2014 growth of graduate students who enrolled for the first time.
“International students are coming to U.S. institutions in growing numbers, and they are particularly attracted to [science, technology, engineering and math] fields,” said Jeff Allum, CGS assistant vice president for research and policy analysis and one of the report’s co-authors.
Allum said the council does not know why the increase in international graduate students occurred. But he said he knows that American graduate schools tend to attract international students because a high-quality education is  a strong long-term investment.
At the University of Minnesota, the number of international graduate students enrolled has risen relatively slowly over the past few years, increasing by about 4 percent between 2012 and 2014, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research. 
The University is attractive for international students because it’s located within a major metropolitan area, said Noro Andriamanalina, director of academic and professional development for the University’s Office for 
Diversity in Graduate Education.
“It’s big enough, but you can also create your own intimate community within the Twin Cities,” she said. “It’s a big draw.”
Foreign first-time graduate students enrolled in mathematics and computer science fields increased by around 28 percent, and those in engineering saw an increase of about 17 percent. Business programs — which Allum said are usually popular — saw a decrease of nearly 3 percent.
Allum said any fluctuations in enrollment for the individual programs could be generally chalked up to market demands in students’ home countries — they often move back after they have completed a graduate program.
CGS surveys over 700 universities and colleges across the country every year, Allum said, and it received 636 responses for the most recent survey. The council has conducted a survey since 1986.
Former president of the University of Minnesota’s Council of Graduate Students and higher education doctoral student Takehito Kamata, who is an international student from Japan, said he chose the University because of the institution’s multicultural community and experienced teaching staff.
“We have a very inclusive intercultural and international community,” he said. 
For those international students who want to work outside their native country, Kamata said, acquiring work visas after they leave the University can be a problem.
Multicultural college teaching and learning master’s student Sumitra Madhuri Ramachandran, who is an international student, said she chose the University because it offered
the best programs for her.
Having students from other nations at the University benefits everyone by allowing students to work with people from other cultures, Andriamanalina said. This skill can be important, she said, as the job market becomes more globalized.
“When you have different ways of thinking about something, there might be more opportunities to solve problems, instead of just one way,” she said.