International student enrollment at all-time high

Ana Mihajlovic

While the number of international students on college campuses is steadily decreasing, Kent State is going against the trend.

In fact, the campus’ foreign student enrollment reached an all-time high this year.

According to the report “Open Doors 2004,” the number of international students on American campuses dropped tremendously last year, with 15 of the top 25 host universities reporting enrollment declines, some as large as 23 percent.

Kent State has nearly doubled its international student population in the past five years. Close to 1,000 international students are on campus this year from more than 100 countries, compared to only 466 international students five years ago.

Some faculty members are optimistic that this number will continue to increase.

“We will be traveling to Eastern Europe in May and talking with universities that have an interest in sending their students to Kent State,” said Steve O. Michael, vice provost for diversity. “The more we take the name of Kent State University across the globe, the more successful we’ll be at increasing international student enrollment.”

Ted McKown, assistant director of admissions for international recruitment, attributes this increase to numerous strategies the university has been employing, including increased efforts at recruiting international students, development of international studies programs and a variety of student services aimed at the special needs of this population.

Not only is the international student population on the rise, but it is also becoming more diverse.

According to McKown, in the past, the majority of international students came from China and India. Now, however, the university is seeing a rise in the number of students from Turkey, Armenia, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Germany.

International representation across campus

The university continues to welcome a rising number of international students by providing a variety of educational, social and cultural programs, such as international student orientation.

“International student orientation is designed to address international students’ concerns, such as social and cultural adjustment, as well as practical matters like immigration, banking and employment,” McKown said.

Another way the university helps international students adjust is through English as a Second Language classes. English Director Klaus Gommlich said ESL classes are offered at five different proficiency levels, and core classes include speaking, vocabulary, reading and writing.

“ESL classes help bridge languages and cultures,” Gommlich said. “Through these classes, international students have the opportunity to learn the skills they need in order to survive in an academic environment.”

Academic assistance programs, such as ESL, also give international students the skill and knowledge necessary to excel in their field of study.

“Before, the majority of international students who came to Kent were majoring in science-related areas,” McKown said. “Now, we have international students in a lot of different areas. They are not necessarily in every major, but they are represented within every college.”

McKown feels that the presence of international students is key for every major because it gives other students the opportunity to hear different perspectives and, as a result, decrease intolerance and stereotyping.

“The reason behind the university’s effort to bring more international students is that we want to create a cross-section of the world within the classroom,” McKown said. “Not all students can afford to travel abroad and experience cultural immersion, so this is a way for us to bring different perspectives and views to them.”

An affordable, friendly atmosphere

One of the reasons why the university continues to attract a rising number of foreign students is financial assistance.

“Cost is a big reason why the number of international students choosing to come to the United States is decreasing,” Gommlich said. “It is becoming more and more expensive for these students to come, and some can’t afford it.”

McKown said this is the reason why Kent offers numerous scholarships to undergraduate students and gives graduate students the opportunity to take advantage of assistantships.

Amrita Basu, finance major from Calcutta, India, came to Kent State on a full scholarship. She said receiving a scholarship shows the university values good students and academic excellency.

In addition to financial assistance, a friendly atmosphere is another reason more and more international students are choosing Kent State.

Sebastien Remy-Drysdale, a post-graduate French major from Le Pin, France, agrees.

“Being at KSU is a great experience. I had a chance to meet really great people,” he said. “Everyone here is friendly, and whenever I look back to what I have accomplished here, I am happy.”

McKown said that this is what Kent State’s international student recruitment is based on.

“Building long-term relationships is key to keeping the international student enrollment high,” he said. “We want international students to feel at home, and we do whatever we can to make sure their experience at Kent is a rewarding one.”

Contact international affairs reporter Ana Mihajlovic at [email protected].