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From: Karin Fischer
Subject: Latitudes: For International Recruitment, Old Challenges Complicated by New Realities
What’s the future of international recruitment?
While Covid-19 isn’t fully in the rearview mirror, international-student interest in studying overseas is rebounding. The Chronicle recently assembled a group of seasoned international-enrollment experts and practitioners for a
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What’s the future of international recruitment?
While Covid-19 isn’t fully in the rearview mirror, international-student interest in studying overseas is rebounding. The Chronicle recently assembled a group of seasoned international-enrollment experts and practitioners for a virtual event on forging ahead in this still-volatile environment. We talked about the lessons they learned from the pandemic, key priorities as they resume overseas recruitment trips, and what forces could shape global-student mobility in the future.
I wanted to share a few takeaways:
The pandemic was one shock. More could be coming. Covid has dominated discussions of international students for more than two years, but other forces could also disrupt student flows, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and continued tensions between the United States and China, said Samba Dieng, senior internationalization officer and executive director of international programs at Louisiana State University. “We should probably be preparing for future geopolitical shocks that will likely limit our ability to attract and retain international students from certain parts of the world.”
Dieng, who first came to the United States as an international student, said the American political climate could dissuade some students from studying here. “I idolized this country as the beacon of the world, and so for tribalism to suddenly take hold really does concern me,” he said. “The current climate could likely undermine international students’ trust in our nation.”
Colleges need to get serious about diversifying the international-enrollment pipeline. Half of the international students on American campuses come from China or India, and Dieng called the reliance on just two countries a “liability” for colleges. Africa should be an important focus, given its “explosive” growth, he said. Sixty percent of the continent’s population is under 25.
At the University of California at Riverside, Jun Wang, assistant provost for strategic initiatives and international recruitment, sends admissions staff members to 42 countries on just about every continent, although he said he was prioritizing outreach to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Those regions also have large young populations, and Riverside’s lower tuition costs could be a selling point.
Colleges have been flying blind. Enrollment management is heavily data-driven. But how do you calculate yield when emerging from a pandemic? Among the variables are continued visa-issuance slowdowns, the impact of Covid on perceptions of American safety, and the move by many colleges to, at least temporarily, waive the requirement for applicants to submit SAT or ACT test scores. “We don’t have historical data available to us right now, so it’s so hard to predict,” said Megan Mankerian-Stem, director of international enrollment at Creighton University.
“Students are applying to more institutions than they have been in previous years, which really means at the end of the day, yields are going to be smaller because there’s still only a certain number of students that are going to enroll in the U.S.”
The Great Resignation is hitting international admissions. Higher education lost an unprecedented number of workers during the pandemic, and the admissions office wasn’t immune to layoffs and resignations. As I’ve written, many international educators struggled in their roles. That’s left admissions offices short-handed as recruitment picks up. Compounding the problem, colleges are retaining many of the virtual strategies they embraced during Covid, on top of their existing in-person efforts.
“There’s been a huge turnover,” said Evelyn Levinson, director of international admissions at American University. “One challenge is to continue to be successful, the right people have to be in place.”
That’s right, colleges are not jettisoning virtual recruitment. Online recruitment fairs and other forms of virtual outreach helped colleges connect with new groups of applicants, often in countries or regions they didn’t typically visit on admissions trips, panelists said. This makes them too valuable to give up.
Mankerian-Stem said online options stretch her money and her time as a one-person office. Wang noted the environmental benefits of less travel, as well as the ability to reach greater numbers of prospective students virtually. Still, he said, important relationships are formed through one-on-one meetings with students and families that can’t be replicated online. “We’re in an education business,” he said. “In-person conversation is very important. People need to build up that trust. It’s not just strictly delivering information.”
Before the pandemic, Levinson would return to the same countries and the same schools again and again. American also uses current students, parents, and alumni in its recruitment efforts. Now it’s about rebuilding connections. Of parents, she said, we need to “make them feel comfortable about sending their sons and daughters to a school like ours.”
Want to hear more insights from our virtual event on the future of international enrollments? You can still register to watch The Chronicle webinar on demand.
Report: How to get more first-generation students to study abroad
Students who are the first in their families to go to college are a growing part of the college population, yet they are consistently underrepresented in study abroad. A new report from the Institute of International Education, with support from the American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation, looks at the current landscape and what it would take to improve accessibility to education abroad for first-generation students.
Finances, the report notes, are the single biggest barrier for first-gen students. But the researchers suggest that actual costs may not be what holds students back so much as the perception that studying overseas is expensive. Many students don’t take the time to ask about costs or possible financial assistance. Limited resources in study-abroad offices also hamper outreach to first-generation and other underrepresented groups.
Among some of the report’s recommendations are:
- Explain everything. Demystify the process for first-generation students by walking them through every step of the procedures for going abroad. Students may need assistance with putting together their program application, applying for a passport and a visa, and booking flights and making other travel arrangements.
- Make education abroad a strategic priority. Colleges can emphasize the value of studying overseas for all students, including those who are first generation. Colleges can work with outside organizations and fellowship programs to help provide financial aid to those who need it. Faculty members are also critical partners, because they carry weight with their students and they often lead short-term programs overseas. And other first-gen students can help inspire their peers to believe that studying abroad is possible for them.
- Provide support throughout. First-generation students don’t just need support when applying to study abroad. Being overseas can be isolating, especially if classmates are more seasoned travelers. Extra advising while abroad and postprogram re-entry workshops can help deal with hiccups and stressors.
Read more: Researchers have found that students who study abroad are more likely graduate on time and with better grades than their peers. Students who are from first-generation or underrepresented backgrounds benefit even more from their time overseas.
Tell me: How is your institution or provider working to make study abroad more accessible? I’m always interested in hearing about innovative programs and strategies. Are you a first-gen student who studied overseas? What did it take to make that possible for you? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surveys highlight career considerations of international students
A pair of new surveys underscores how intertwined career goals have become with students’ decisions to earn a degree overseas. In i-graduate’s 2022 International Student Barometer survey, nearly all students said career prospects influenced where they chose to study — more than institutional reputation, research opportunities, or the availability of specific majors. The group, which helps colleges around the world track the international-student experience, also found that students were most likely to say their studies provided value for their money if they felt they were prepared for a career, more than any other factor cited.
Meanwhile, more than half of overseas student-recruitment agents surveyed by INTO University Partnerships, which run pathways programs for foreign students, said those they advise are motivated to study overseas because of potential work opportunities after graduation.
But are colleges prepared to help international students, who face a host of legal and cultural hurdles in finding work, successfully make the transition from college to career? I dug into the issue earlier this year.
Around the globe
A bipartisan bill would establish a fellowship named after the late Rep. John Lewis to support international internships or research on nonviolent civil-rights movements as part of the Fulbright Program.
About one in three students said Covid canceled their study-abroad plans.
Commissions paid by some British universities to recruit international students are spiking.
Banning private tutoring in China created a black market for such academic services.
A leading Taiwanese university was hacked amid a spate of cyberattacks as tensions with China flare.
The Taliban’s prohibition on girls studying in high school could become a de facto ban on Afghan women earning college degrees.
A Palestinian poet enrolled in a master of fine arts program at Syracuse University said Israel is blocking him from getting to a U.S. student-visa interview.
Kenya’s departing president awarded eight new university charters in his final days in office, leading to concerns he was attempting to sway votes for the candidate he endorsed as his successor.
The Forum on Education Abroad and the School for International Training are together offering a certificate for professionals in education abroad.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators is now accepting applications for its Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization.
Chinese students are sent to the United States with “ominous advice,” according to this column on America’s faltering public image in China: “Don’t stray from campus, watch what you say, back away from conflict.”
And finally …
When in Rome, right? Well, when in America, international students sometimes have to make do with grocery-store staples to approximate versions of dishes from home. One Chinese student has gone viral on TikTok for her videos of turning pre-made pizza dough into wrappers for meat buns, and linguine into a northern Chinese grilled-noodle dish, kao leng mian. Yiping Ma has joked that her creations will “offend” or “traumatize” food purists, but instead her mash-up dishes have caught on.
“The concept of my series is using foods to build a bridge between different cultures and different foods,” Ma, who goes by the English name Pearl, told The Washington Post. “One of my followers says I’m offending people to unite them.”
Thanks for reading. I always welcome your feedback and ideas for future reporting, so drop me a line, at email@example.com. You can also connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you like this newsletter, please share it with colleagues and friends. They can sign up here.