WMU exceeds national average in attracting international students

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WMU has over 1,600 international students on campus, representing 105 countries.

KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University is exceeding the national average in attracting international students according to the 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released Nov. 12, which found that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 7 percent last year.

About the report

The new report covers the 2012-13 academic year, and percentages of change are based on comparisons to the 2011-12 academic year. During that period, WMU's international student enrollment grew by 12.9 percent, raising the total to 1,575 international students representing 95 countries on campus last fall. The growth has continued. This fall, WMU enrollment data shows an additional 7.2 percent increase over last year's number reported in the Open Doors report. The University now has 1,688 international students on campus representing 105 countries.

The increases are a reflection of national trends, as reported in Open Doors, a census published annually by the Institute of International Education with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It found that the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased to a record high of 819,644 in 2012-13 and the number of U.S. students engaging in study abroad increased by 3 percent to a record total of 283,000 in 2011-12.

National trends, new programs factors in increase

Dr. Wolfgang Schlör, associate provost of WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education, says that the University’s growing number of international students reflects those national trends as well as some areas of special focus. This fall, for instance, trends from the previous year and several new student populations and new programs meant WMU welcomed 74 new students from Saudi Arabia (407 total), 41 from India (170 total), 35 from Brazil (66 total) and 37 from Iraq (60 total). These increases are bolstered by growth in the University’s Fulbright student population. WMU has attracted 39 Fulbright Fellows to campus representing more than 30 countries in 12 academic programs.

Schlör anticipates enrollment of students from Brazil will continue to increase through WMU's participation in the Institute of International Education’s 2013 Brazil International Academic Partnership Program. WMU was one of only 14 United States higher education institutions selected to participate in this program. Already, WMU has attracted the fourth largest number of students—89—to enroll in a U.S. university through the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, which provides scholarships for overseas study, primarily in STEM fields.

International student growth is likely to continue for other reasons as well. WMU's Center for English Language and Culture for International Students—CELCIS—grew nearly 30 percent to 324 full-time students this fall. Historically more than 90 percent of CELCIS graduates become degree-seeking students at WMU after completing their CELCIS studies.

Rounding out the details on WMU's international engagement with students and scholars, Schlör says, is the fact that WMU reported 72 percent growth in the Open Doors International Scholars Survey for the most recently completed academic year, 2012-13. During that year, the campus hosted or employed 167 international scholars, as compared to 97 scholars the previous year. The scholars represented international tenure-track and visiting faculty, research staff and other visitors.

Study abroad participation also examined

The Open Doors report also includes data on study abroad participation, but those figures cover a different academic year than the international enrollment numbers. The study abroad data covers the 2011-12 academic year, when WMU saw its largest study abroad enrollment in a decade—585 students—a 13.6 percent increase over the previous academic year. The University sent 585 students overseas during the 2011-12 academic year. The top five destinations for WMU students were Germany (63), Czech Republic (61), Spain (61), Italy (56) and China (43).

WMU awarded nearly $500,000 in student scholarships for study abroad during the 2011-12 year, with $400,000 coming from University sources. The WMU President's Grant for Study Abroad and the Haenicke Institute for Global Education Scholarship for Study Abroad have been particularly influential in spurring the growth in study abroad enrollment.

Community benefits

International students bring enormous economic benefits to their colleges' home communities. This week, the Association of International Educators, or NAFSA, released its annual analysis outlining the economic value international students and their dependents contribute to the United States. The latest figures for the 2012-13 academic year show that international students and their dependents contributed $24 billion to the U.S. economy, and NAFSA estimates that 313,000 jobs were created or supported during the same time frame.

According to the NAFSA report, Michigan's Sixth Congressional District—in which WMU is located—has a total international student enrollment of 2,592 students, generating about $70 million of activity in the local economy and about 1,000 jobs (direct and indirect services) in the past year.