International student enrollment sets record

FORT COLLINS – Colorado universities have stepped up efforts to recruit international students, resulting in record-setting enrollment – and increased revenue.

International student enrollment in Colorado rose 6 percent to nearly 9,000 this year over last year, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Most Colorado international students come from China.

The students bring diversity – and dollars – to the state. Student spending in Colorado totaled $280 million during the 2012-13 academic year, nearly $30 million more than the previous school year, according to the report.

Colorado State University, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado-Boulder have seen their international student enrollment from Asia and the Middle East swell.

The increased number of international scholars prepares all students for a global workplace, offers valuable perspective on other countries and cultures and provides peer competition, school officials said. International students also pay nonresident tuition, a boon for universities struggling with less funding from the state, university officials said. International students also tend to receive less financial aid, pushing up revenue for universities.

“The fact that it’s a benefit to our revenue stream doesn’t make anyone disappointed,´ said Jim Cooney, CSU vice provost for international affairs.

At CSU, international enrollment increased to 1,506 students this year, a 23 percent increase from 2012-13. CSU’s international enrollment has increased 70 percent over the past five years.

“We’re getting to a level that’s respectable and we still want to increase that level even more,” Cooney said.

The influx comes from relationships university faculty members have developed with colleagues at five key Chinese institutions: East China Normal University, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, Hunan University, China Agricultural University and Beijing Normal University. At East China Normal in Shanghai, for example, the universities have established the clean-energy-focused Joint Research Institute for New Energy and the Environment. The university more recently has developed ties to Chinese high schools linked to those universities.

As part of President Tony Frank’s CSU 2020 plan, a broad strategic initiative, CSU plans to ramp up international student enrollment to 3,000 by 2020.

“I think we’re going to get there sooner than later with what we’re doing,” Cooney said.

At UNC in Greeley, international enrollment reached 406 this year, up from 365 last year – an 11 percent gain. Most of the university’s international students come from Saudi Arabia, said Maureen Ulevich, director of the Center for International Education. That country has a large scholarship program that sends students to universities worldwide.

Many of the Saudi students are studying education and business. Many Chinese students, another large segment of UNC’S international population, are majoring in business and music.

“Compared to CSU or CU-Boulder, we have relatively few international students,” Ulevich said. “A lot of our students come here because a relative or a friend has already come here, and they know that it’s a good university.”

At 1,879, CU-Boulder had the most international students of any higher-education institution in Colorado – 25 percent more than CSU. As at CSU, most of CU-Boulder’s international students – more than 500 – come from China.

“The same thing is happening everywhere in the country,´ said Larry Bell, executive director of CU-Boulder’s Office of International Education. As other countries prosper, they look the U.S. universities to educate their young.

Another factor that increased enrollment was a bill signed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2010 that removed international students from a cap on the number of nonresidents that attend state universities.

“Until the flexibility legislation passed, we did not recruit at all internationally,” Bell said.

Most international graduate students attended CU of their own accord in the past, Bell said. But the bulk of the recent growth has come from undergraduate international student enrollment because CU has focused on recruiting that group. Many of the students major in engineering, while others select business.

The increased international student enrollment “brings the world” to Colorado students, he said. As at CSU, international students pay nonresident tuition.

“There’s a financial benefit,” Bell said.

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