Foreign students flooding college campuses
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent November 18, 2012 6:58PM
International graduate students Faisal Aljaizani from Saudi Arabia, (right) and Nevenka Stefanovska, from Macedonia, (center) play a geography quiz game with Intenational Programs Office staffer Katherine Haan (left) during an International Education Week fair at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind. Thursday November 15, 2012. PUC has about 660 international students from 40 different countries on its campus of 10,000. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 20, 2012 6:08AM
For Nevenka Stefanovska, leaving her native Macedonia for a graduate program at Purdue University Calumet offered the opportunity to attend what she called a world-renowned university in a community with a low cost of living.
Navdeep Multani, a sophomore, selected Valparaiso University so she could experience more diverse cultures than she could at a school in her native India.
And Dongguo Chen is getting his graduate degree at VU because he wanted to strengthen his English and communication skills.
For myriad reasons, international students find themselves completing their graduate or undergraduate degrees on U.S. soil.
They and officials at some of the area’s university’s said both international and American students benefit when they study together, bridging cultural gaps as they move into the business world. Because foreign students often pay full or out-of-state tuition, universities also may benefit financially by boosting their numbers.
New figures out last week show international enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities grew nearly 6 percent last year, driven by a 23 percent increase from China, even as total enrollment was leveling out. Many students are drawn to the Big Ten’s Midwestern campuses; Indiana University’s international enrollment now surpasses 6,000, or about 15 percent of the student body, according to data collected by the Institute of International Education.
Nationally, there were 765,000 foreign students on U.S. campuses last year, with China (158,000) the top source, followed by India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia (the fastest growing thanks to an ambitious scholarship program by the Saudi government). Altogether, the U.S. Department of Commerce calculates they contribute $22.7 billion to the economy, and many stay after graduation.
Closer to home, campus officials said they are seeing similar trends.
A cultural advantage
“It’s going up on our campus. We have 659 enrolled this fall. That’s about 6 percent of our total student body,” said Wes Lukoshus, assistant vice chancellor for university relations at Purdue Calumet.
The campus had 464 international students in 2008 and the numbers have been growing ever since. The students represent 40 countries, with most coming from China or Saudi Arabia.
“The advantage for us is that it culturalizes our campus,” Lukoshus said, adding Purdue students get exposure to cultures they might not get elsewhere.
While some international students pay full tuition, Lukoshus said it’s not a substantial reason for bringing them to campus.
“We see it as rounding out the cultural experience for our students,” he said.
Stefanovska, 31, of the capital city Skopje in Macedonia, started this semester as a graduate student in communications. She will graduate in May 2014, and plans to return home to find employment. She received a tuition waiver and a graduate assistanceship to attend Purdue.
In addition to Purdue’s reputation and the cost of living, Stefanovska said her master’s program is flexible so she can tailor it to her interests.
“It was a long journey of applying to universities in the United States,” she said.
Officials at Indiana University Northwest said the campus is home to a small number of international students from Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.
“IU Northwest, in collaboration with Indiana University, supports students’ global experiences and international exploration through our curriculum development, faculty recruitment, study abroad experiences, and culturally-aware student clubs and organizations,” officials said in a prepared statement.
Some will stay in U.S.
At VU, the campus welcomed a record number of foreign students, about 400 in graduate and undergraduate studies. That’s up from 350 last year and, while the numbers have been climbing over time, they did dip for a year or two, said Renu Juneja, the university’s senior associate provost.
Reflecting national trends, most of the students are from China and Saudi Arabia, though the school attracts students from 53 countries throughout the world. The university does offer some scholarships to international students.
“If you want to attract high-quality international students, you have to compete,” she said.
Cultural exposure ranks high for why international students attend VU.
“America is a melting pot of all cultures. That’s the main reason I’m here,” Multani said, adding she has met students from Pakistan, Spain, Saudi Arabia and other countries on campus who she never would have met in India.
Speaking during a campus celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, Multani, 19, an actuarial science major from Punjab, said she sees a benefit to her American peers as well. She hopes to remain in the United States after she earns her degree.
“I think they learn about different cultures, and it’s going to help them when they graduate,” she said.
Chen, 27, is working on his master’s degree in international commerce and policy, and will graduate in December. A native of an area near Bejing, Chen plans on returning home after he graduates.
“We can share the culture,” he said.
AP contributed to this report.