Universities need to be diversified
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 15:11
International enrollment has been growing rapidly at universities in the United States, but unfortunately, our enrollment has not been as diverse as it should be.
According to a recent report from the Chronicle of Higher Education, international enrollments grew more quickly in 2010 than they did a year prior, reaching an all-time high of 723,277 students. The growth, however, has been heavily reliant on two countries: China and Saudi Arabia. This is according to recent data released by the Institute of International Education.
Enrollment for Chinese students rose more than 23 percent, according to the Chronicle. Saudi students, who arrived in significantly smaller numbers, expanded their presence by 44 percent. They also benefited from generous government scholarships, according to the Chronicle.
Other countries have made modest strides in their enrollments in the U.S. According to the Chronicle, Vietnam's enrollment, though relatively small, grew 14 percent. Mexico and South Korea grew a mere 2 percent each.
Although some countries have grown their enrollments, there is still more to be done to reach out to others. India's total enrollment dropped 1 percent, and that statistic was propped up by a heavy use of Optional Practical Training, a program through which graduates can stay on and work temporarily. The number of Indian students in that program grew 26 percent, according to the Chronicle. The number of students pursuing undergraduate degrees declined by 8 percent, and students pursuing graduate degrees declined by 7 percent.
We live in a world that is becoming more and more interdependent. To that end, we need to do more to reach out to international students and have them study in the U.S. Having them study here provides an important cultural exchange that is mutually beneficial. Having a diversity of students here could potentially lead to a more diverse workforce, which could benefit our economy. The U.S. still remains the top choice for many students, particularly students who have means. This bodes well for our educational system, and we need to continue to foster a culture of diversity in our universities.
Addressing this issue will mean addressing a range of things that are out of universities' control. These issues include, among other things, immigration reform. The government will have to look at ways to reform our immigration laws to make it simpler for universities to attract international students.
Despite potential roadblocks like this one, many universities are stepping up their efforts to recruit international students. The Chronicle reports that, according to the results of a survey this fall by eight higher-education associations, more than half of the colleges that responded said that they had invested more heavily in recruitment. They did this either through adding staff or developing international collaborations with an eye toward increasing enrollments.
The state of Colorado exempted colleges last year from counting foreign students toward their out-of-state enrollment caps, according to the Chronicle. This allowed institutions like the University of Colorado at Boulder to begin recruiting overseas. This year the university's international undergraduate enrollments grew by 113 students to 626, with much of that growth coming from China.
Universities and our national government need to continue to look for ways to expand international enrollment. Doing so will benefit our culture, our economy and our overall lives.