How Institutions Can Continue to Attract International Students

Education Dive

by Shalina Chatlani

Dive Brief:

  • International students face a number of concerns with language differences, family income, legal and regulatory constraints in a tight visa application process. They may also feel a sense of anxiety, especially now with a Supreme Court decision to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban, wrote Brad Farnsworth, vice president of the American Council on Education’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement, for Higher Education Today.
  • While institutions cannot change legal barriers, wrote Farnsworth, they can improve the quality of the international student experience and attract more by creating inclusive learning and social environments where instructors can employ strategies like using clear, colloquial-free language, providing discussion questions in advance, using shorter readings and building time for small group work ahead of full classroom discussions. Steps like these lend a meaningful cross-cultural experience, he explained in an ACE blog.
  • Further, institutions can focus on managing mental health issues — an increasing concern for international students who may not “understand how to use the health care system in the United States” or the costs of delaying care — by disseminating information and resources at various times of the academic year. Additionally, colleges can negotiate local professional development and work opportunities for international students. They also can explain to students what their expectations should be and work to make them more attractive job candidates, said Farnsworth.

Dive Insight:

Statistics supplied by the Council of Graduate Schools in 2018 show that for the first time since fall 2003 there has been a decline in graduate student enrollment. The organization said specifically, applications from prospective international graduate students declined by 3%, while first-time enrollment of international graduate students declined by 1% in predominately master’s degree and certificate programs.

And now, industry leaders see this trend potentially at the undergraduate level as well, with many publicly noting how exclusionary rhetoric — which many experts contend has grown tremendously under the Trump administration, especially with policies around Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, travel bans for individuals from several Muslim-majority countries, and an increase in student protests around social issues — has only exacerbated sentiments of international students not feeling welcome to an American education.

This reality will impact the business of higher education. Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education policy and practice at The Education Trust, told Education Dive the ban has financial implications as “international students have been important to U.S. higher ed from an intellectual capacity perspective, and there are a large number of graduate students that are coming from other countries to live here [and are contributing] revenue.”

To stay ahead of this situation, institutions ought to consider revamping their policies and best practices around international students and make sure they feel comfortable on campus, Farnsworth wrote.