International Students are Paying More for Education; are Universities Doing Enough?

(Excerpt of the Forbes article co-authored by Rahul Choudaha and Di Hu)

In recent years, increasing international student enrollment is a widely used strategy to offset the declining domestic enrollment. The results of these proactive efforts of international student recruitment seem to be paying off. The enrollment of international students in the U.S. has increased by 56% from 2007 to 2014, during which period, the financial contributions of international students increased by 96%. In other words, average financial contribution per international student increased from nearly $25,000 in 2007 to $31,300 in 2014.

Many American Higher education institutions are at a tipping point where they are at a risk of pricing themselves out. Higher education leaders must ask if their institution continues to offer a promising return on investment for international students?

The support services on campus are often limited to compliance about maintaining student visa status and tokenism of programming related to cultural festivals. International student integration and acculturation are becoming a bigger issue on many campuses. A report entitled “Internationalizing the Co-curriculum: Integrating International Students” by the American Council on Education shared best practices of institutions, recognizing the importance of adjusting services and programs to meet diverse needs of international students. It asserted “International students are subject to the same stressors as domestic students, and perhaps more, with the added pressures of cultural adjustment.” A previous report entitled “Bridging the Gap Recruitment and Retention to Improve International Student Experiences” from NAFSA: Association of International Educators highlighted the mismatch between student expectations prior to enrollment and their actual campus experiences.

Sherif Barsoum, Assistant Vice President for Global Services at New York University—the leading host institution in the U.S. with more than 13,000 international students—concurs that international offices are “often busy and at times overwhelmed with visa reporting and immigration compliance issues. It is crucially imperative that international offices also engage in programming not only for international students but also campus wide to further the internationalization of American campuses.”

At a recent annual conference of the Association of International Education Administrators, in Montreal, Canada, Rahul Choudaha (co-author) chaired a session “Metrics of International Student Success” and highlighted the need to move from the current focus on inputs (increasing the number of students) to outcomes (ensuring student success in line with the institutional mission). To ensure the sustainability of enrollment, institutions must streamline the international student experience across institutional silos.

In sum, American higher education institutions command strong respect and recognition for its quality. William Brustein, Vice-Provost for Global Strategies and International Affairs at The Ohio State University, asserts “With the increasing global competition for the best and brightest it is incumbent upon us to devote more effort to successful international student retention, integration, and career preparation.”

International students are increasingly paying more for their education. A widening mismatch in their expectations and experiences would create negative word-of-mouth and hurt future enrollment. Institutions must do more to engage and support international students for the benefit of all students and the larger campus community.

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