Decrease In Foreign Students Prompts University To Reinstate Recruiting Effort
December 11, 2006 9:33 AM
A report released last month by the Institute of International Education stated that SF State ranks first among master institutions for international students, but the report masks falling international enrollment that has cost the university millions. To curb the trend, a university-wide effort is being made to boost international enrollment.
From 2003 to 2006 the amount of revenue earned each year from non-California resident tuition and fees is down nearly $3 million, symptomatic of a 550-student decline in international enrollment, according to figures provided by the Office of Enrollment and Planning and the Office of Public Affairs and Publications.
Non-California residents attending SF State, most of whom are international students, pay an additional $339 per unit on top of normal university tuition and fees.
In the past, international students have represented a significant revenue source. In 2003 at the peak of foreign enrollment, the campus had 1,855 international students, making up nearly 37 percent of all money earned from tuition and fees.
This year non-California resident tuition and fees are expected to make up less than 20 percent of total tuition and fee revenues.
In an Aug. 28 speech SF State President Robert A. Corrigan acknowledged this decline and its affect on the university financially, and said the university has made a commitment to increasing international enrollment.
The budget for the Office of International Programs has been increased by about $90,000 for 2005 and 2006, said Yenbo Wu, director of the Office of International Programs.
Between $40,000 and $50,000 of the increase is being used for foreign recruitment trips.
“Under the original budget we were not in a position to do any recruiting,” Wu said.
In 2000 foreign recruitment halted entirely. But since fall 2005, trips have already been made to countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India, Mexico, Thailand, Taiwan, China and Saudi Arabia.
“When you are not out for that long, your presence needs to be rebuilt,” said Wu who made a trip to China this year. He estimates that it will take more than two years for the trips to really pay off.
The effort has been taken up by more than just the Office of International Programs, said Jay Ward, associate director of the Office of International Programs. “Everybody is behind the effort now.”
All levels of the university from admissions to student systems have focused on international enrollment, Ward said.
Half of the dean’s retreat in October was dedicated to addressing the issue, and President Corrigan personally made a trip to China the same month, Ward said.
The sharp drop in enrollment is believed to have resulted from a number of unexpected factors.
In 2000, in the face of a statewide budget crisis, and confident that San Francisco’s international appeal would continue attracting foreign students, the Office of International Programs stopped recruiting overseas, Ward said.
“We became victims of our own success,” he said.
The university had made huge progress from 1994 when the campus had only 762 international students to 2000 when the population had grown to 1,625 students.
“We had this fabulous momentum and our numbers were not affected, there was this sense that we could save money by not recruiting,” Ward said.
But the climate changed quickly after a number of factors reshaped the face of international study.
Director of Public Affairs Ellen Griffin said President Corrigan attributed the decline to more restrictive policies placed on international students following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. These policies included the activation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System requiring universities to provide the names, addresses, courses and majors of all foreign students.
The difficulty of applying for a student visa “multiplied a hundred times over again” and “it became extremely difficult to get a visa especially from the Middle East and Muslim countries,” Ward said.
In addition, state university budget cuts, which nearly ended the engineering program, a popular major among international students, also hurt SF State’s international appeal, Ward said.
The effects of September 11, combined with a statewide budget crisis and the absence of foreign recruitment led to a 270-student drop in international enrollment between fall 2003 and fall 2004.
“After 2003, we see this drastic slide,” Wu said. “We cannot afford to lose hundreds of them.”
Even if enrollment does improve, SF State will likely relinquish the top spot among master graduating universities in 2008 when the university offers its first doctorate program.
After 2008, SF State will start being ranked among universities offering doctorate programs, including the University of Southern California, which has more than twice as many international students.
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