How One University Is Increasing Its International Enrollment

Denver — International students have long come to North Carolina State University for its graduate programs, where they account for about a third of the enrollment. At the undergraduate level, however, they have historically made up less than 1 percent of the student body.

The university has been working to change that pattern. During a session here on Wednesday at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers’ annual meeting, two admissions officials shared what N.C. State has tried so far.

The university’s goal is to increase international undergraduate enrollment—to a point, said Louis D. Hunt, vice provost for enrollment management and services. The state caps the university’s combined out-of-state and international enrollment at 18 percent. With that in mind, N.C. State hopes that eventually 4 to 5 percent of its enrollment will be international.

Back in 2008, just over 1 percent of the incoming class came from outside the United States, Mr. Hunt said. By 2013, more than 3 percent did.

N.C. State has pursued a number of strategies to expand that population, including some that had little or no cost.

The university has worked to make its admissions process smoother and faster for international applicants, said Jeong C. Powell, director of international admissions. The university went test-optional for international applicants, she said, because students in China cannot take the SAT or ACT in their own country. N.C. State started a conditional-admissions program, admitting some students to an intensive-English program as a path into the university.

It also made the regular admissions process faster, admitting students based on their unofficial transcripts. And it sends out the I-20 forms students need to apply for their visas as quickly as possible, Ms. Powell said, knowing that international students often enroll at the first university they receive one from.

N.C. State has also stepped up its recruitment, Ms. Powell said, joining international tours and starting a fly-in program for counselors from around the world.

It also has teamed up with high schools in China and South Korea as a way to form relationships and reduce the risk of accepting students with fraudulent credentials. “We trust those schools without question,” Mr. Hunt said, “and they’re vested in sending us very good students.”

In a personal touch in the international-recruitment process, N.C. State has created gifts for its staff to present to counselors and school officials. Students in the university’s college of textiles designed a necktie and a scarf that Mr. Hunt and Ms. Powell modeled during their presentation here.

The ties and scarves are made in North Carolina, Ms. Powell said. “It isn’t that easy,” she added, “to find something that is not made in China.”

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