1. The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities showed the highest rate of growth in 35 years in 2014-15, increasing by ten percent to a record high of 974,926 students, according to the 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Why have we seen such a dramatic increase of international students coming to the U.S. recently?
In general, universities across the U.S. have become much more active in recruiting students from other countries. This increases the diversity of cultures on our campuses and also contributes to the “bottom-line”. In addition, recruiting practices have become more open and increasingly similar to the practices of other countries around the globe. For example, historically, many large universities in the U.S. have frowned upon partnering with a third party in another country to assist in promoting the university and contacting students regarding their interest in the university. This practice has been commonplace in the United Kingdom and Australia for many years, but only recently became broadly accepted in the U.S.
I believe the financial crisis of 2008 is also having a substantial impact. It’s no secret that the U.S. economy has recovered more quickly than other developed nations. The emerging economies whose strength helped in the early stages of recovery after 2008, have slowed. This has tightened opportunities for students in those countries and has led them to look abroad in the search for qualifications, which would appeal to multi-national corporations and smaller multi-national companies.
There are also more detailed, unique local driving forces. For example, India is the second largest “exporter” of students to U.S. universities and saw nearly 30 percent growth in the number of students who came to the U.S. to study in 2014-2015. Most students in India have seen the U.S. as a highly respected place to study business and the sciences for a long time, but the big increases we’ve seen in students from India also have very practical, basic motivations, such as the stabilization of their primary currency, an increase in available funding from local banks and stiff competition for open seats at good Indian Universities.
2. The number of international graduate students saw a steep rise alongside undergraduate students. What are the benefits of coming to the U.S. for both undergraduate and graduate studies?
Our system of education is different and highly valued by many governments and influential private citizens across the globe. In many countries the system of education relies substantially on routine memorization or very narrowly defined rules and principles. You memorize events, formulas, symbols, words and people’s lives. To pass your exams, you repeat that information, get your degree and head out into the world.
Our system of education focuses on educating “the whole person” and developing the problem solving skills and critical thinking which can be applied to many different settings and situations. (Of course, I’m oversimplifying both types of education to make a point, but I’ve heard many students and administrators from other countries make the very same statements.)
In a global economy, the skills ideally developed in our system of education are immensely important as we rely on workers to span not only different departments, but also different countries and cultures.
3. Business and Management remained the top field of study for international students, with over 20 percent of students majoring in this area. Why do you feel so many international students have focused on Business degrees, and what are the advantages of gaining this knowledge at U.S. colleges and universities?
The US is still seen as the destination of choice when it comes to a business education. If you are studying Engineering, perhaps you think of some other countries first. When it comes to business –having a business degree from the U.S. not only communicates that you’ve learned the system of business in the largest market economy in the world, but that you’ve absorbed some of the cultural awareness and (hopefully) subtly of communication which is so necessary when dealing with global companies who may have originated in the U.S. or have large U.S. offices. Beyond the classroom, most students know they have the opportunity to work in internships in U.S. companies. In addition, through an extension to their U.S. student visa, called Optional Practical Training, they can work for a year in the U.S. in their area of study, build their resume and gain valuable experience and business connections.
4. The amount of U.S. students who chose to study abroad also increased by five percent last year, to a total of 304,467. How important is it for U.S. students to take the opportunity to study abroad and experience learning in another culture?
More important than ever! This is an aspect of our “holistic” education, which we don’t emphasize enough! Global economy = global companies = global workforce. We used to think of “Study Abroad” as mostly a good time traveling and picking up some valuable “experiences” along the way (as well as completing some credits). “But the times – they are a-changin’.” U.S. students who don’t spend time studying abroad today are truly at a disadvantage and may be limiting their upside potential. Students in the U.S. have the “opportunity” to lead a very sheltered existence. They can get by, even though they never leave the country, learn another language, or get to know someone from a different culture. Students who reach beyond this pattern of living are the ones with the greatest potential to become our business leaders, our political leaders and our visionaries. Knowledge of the world – other cultures and other languages – can help us to be better leaders and to be better citizens of the world. Study Abroad can be an importance piece of beginning that development.
5. What makes Post University a strong destination for international students seeking to study in the U.S.?
Post University is truly a unique opportunity for international students. Almost every university will talk about having small class sizes. They may have 40,000 students, but can point to an average class size of 17. Yet, when you walk around campus or talk to students, it’s not unusual to find classes approaching 100 students, and you are hard pressed to find any core degree courses under 25 or 30 students. This is very common. When I walk around the campus at Post and peer into classrooms, it’s rare to see more than 10 or 12 students in a classroom. And it is very common to see classes of six, seven, or eight students. This is a reality at Post! This is not just a number which looks good in marketing material and may be manipulated by having a large number of classes which can only be accessed at the end of your education. I have a student who transferred from another school this semester who told me there were only three students in one of his classes. I asked if he thought this was a good thing, and he said, “It’s a great thing! I can ask any question I want, and I’ll always be able to keep up.” This is an incredible opportunity for an international student! Most students from other countries have a great deal of anxiety about keeping up and missing some of the information “in between the lines”. But at Post, the access they have to their professors and classmates lends a “total quality” difference. You don’t get lost at the back of the room at Post. Even if you want to!
It’s not just the size of the classroom, but what is done with it. I’m very fond of telling people that Post is a great place for two types of students.
- The student who is struggling and needs some extra support to make it. They have more access to their professors and easier access to the thoughts of their American classmates. When there are eight students in a class, and you break into small group work, you’re not going to be left out because you are the one with an accent or you missed the subtlety of a joke that was told. These are real anxieties that international students have!
- The student who is a high performing student and wants to get the MOST out of their relationships with professors and classmates. That same access which helps the struggling student can do even more for the high achiever who takes advantage of the professional knowledge and business contacts of their professors and the higher level honors classes available at Post, and who also makes the most of building their skills through internship opportunities available due to the large number of companies between here and New York City.
There is one additional story I want to share which tells a lot about the atmosphere on this campus. The weekend after the attacks in Paris, several of our students from France came into the International Office and shared how supported they felt. It wasn’t just the support of the residential life staff and the counseling center, but each one of them said how thoughtful and kind the other students were. You can’t legislate that. It’s in the culture here.
Bill Stadler is the Assistant Director of International Admissions at Post University. Stadler previously worked in International Admissions at the University of Bridgeport. His background prior to Higher Education was in financial services, working with Fidelity Investments in addition to a small, private financial planning practice. Stadler earned his B.A. in Communications at Eastern Nazarene College and completed his CFP® at Boston University.