“There are many ways to become an international student … the company I went through gave me 12 options and then I picked MSUM,” said Mateus Leite, a business administration major with an emphasis in marketing.
Leite is an international student from Botucatu, Sau Paulo, Brazil. He is in his second semester at MSUM. Leite says even thought it is a long and expensive process, he believes it is worth it in the end.
Despite Leite’s attitude toward MSUM, the overall number of international students has dropped.
Every year, approximately one million international students come to the United States of America in pursuit of a college education, according to IIe.org. Throughout the past 10 years there had been a steady climb in international student enrollment; however, during the 2016-2017 academic year, 45 percent of U.S. universities saw a 7 percent decline in enrollment. The national average dropped by 3.3 percent, a change that affected MSUM.
MSUM prides itself on developing a diverse campus. This diversity includes having an enrollment of international students. There are a number of possible reasons that enrollment dropped, some of them more obvious that others. Janet Hohenstein, the director of International Student Services at MSUM, was able to shed some light on the situation.
“One of the reasons for a decrease in students is because it can be hard to get to the United States,” she said. “Getting a visa is very difficult and there isn’t really a rhyme or reason to it.”
The process of finding a college, obtaining the correct documents and getting a visa is time consuming and expensive. Tuition has also increased, leading some students to look for educational opportunities in other countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.
Another hindrance to international students has been dubbed “The Big Chill,” or the “Trump Effect,” by International Educator. This theory refers to the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and some of his recent controversial statements involving border control and immigration. There are safety concerns about international students and how they will be received in the United States. Some view the United States as having an “anti-immigration” attitude. Canada can attribute some of its enrollment growth to the “Trump Effect” as students report that Canada is an easy alternative to the United States.
The fall semester of 2013 at MSUM saw the enrollment of international students sitting at 433. By the 2018-2019 school year that number decreased to 279 students. It is not only an issue of students leaving MSUM, but also a lack of students applying to the international student program. In 2013 there were 133 new/transfer students, and this year there are 54.
Hohenstein believes MSUM is being affected by multiple factors. The first is that the university does not offer the top undergraduate majors that international students are looking for, like nursing and engineering. She also believes that the cold weather may have something to do with it, and expressed her concern about the rumored “Trump effect.”
MSUM has to consider the previous concerns when recruiting students into the international program. The recruitment plan for MSUM relies heavily on word of mouth.
“A lot of students come here because they had friends who were international students and told them about their experience. It kind of has a domino effect,” Hohenstein said.
A budget for the international studies program is set aside every year, and the current budget is around $15,000-$20,000. According to Hoenstein, this is a set budget and cannot be altered at this time, so the recruitment plan is at a standstill. All that can be done as a way of recruitment is already being done.
The university uses this money for recruiting international students, and a good portion of this money goes toward trips overseas.
During these recruitment trips, staff members attend school or student fairs and will also mail out informational brochures. A four set series is sent to the Middle East, China and India. As use of technology has developed and increased, so has online recruitment programs. This gives students a free, easy way to access the information and resources MSUM provides.