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International student enrollment increases 15 percent

Dec. 1, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University saw double-digit growth in international and study abroad enrollment this fall, due in large part to increased scholarship programs.

Compared to the last academic year, WMU's international student enrollment grew by 15.2 percent, raising the total to 1,114 degree-seeking international students on campus in this fall. Meanwhile, the University saw a 19 percent increase in WMU students going overseas to study or work abroad.

The increases are a reflection of national trends, as reported in 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. The IIE's latest report, "Open Doors 2008," was released Nov. 17 and represents data collected from the 2007-08 and 2006-07 academic years.

It found that the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased by 7 percent to a record high of 623,805 in 2007-08 and the number of U.S. students engaging in study abroad increased by 8 percent to a record total of 241,791 in 2006-07.

Dr. Donald McCloud, dean of the Haenicke Institute for Global Education, says pivotal to WMU's increase in international enrollment this fall have been two scholarship programs sponsored by foreign governments.

McCloud says a scholarship program with the Dominican Republic signed in December 2007 by WMU President John M. Dunn has attracted more than 100 students to study at WMU, while a scholarship program with the government of Saudi Arabia has resulted in 139 Saudi students enrolling in degree programs this fall.

The WMU-Dominican Republic agreement is based on an ongoing initiative called the Dominican Scholars Program, which was launched in 1996 by Dominican President Leonel Fernandez Reyna. The Saudi program grew out of a 2005 summit meeting between President George W. Bush and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, then the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Michigan is home to the largest Arabic-speaking community abroad, and WMU has longstanding connections to the Middle East as well an intensive English program for international students.

"Our scholarship agreement with the government of the Dominican Republic reflects Western Michigan University's commitment to meet the educational aspirations of students from other countries," McCloud says. "The trust that the Saudi Arabian mission in Washington, D.C., continues to place in the high quality of education that their students can obtain here in Kalamazoo also reflects the commitment of our community to welcome students from around the world."

McCloud adds that a new partnership with a Jordanian institution is contributing to WMU's growth in international students. "While the program with Tafila Technical University in Jordan represents a smaller group, reaching 20 students this fall, they are all graduate students who will contribute importantly to Western's research mission," he notes.

Enrollment in WMU's Career English Language Center for International Students remains strong, McCloud continues, with 111 full-time students enrolled this fall. Historically, more than 90 percent of CELCIS graduates become degree-seeking students at WMU. In addition, CELCIS continues to expand its scope by developing customized programs of shorter durations for key institutions that partner with WMU, such as Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.

McCloud also reports a 19 percent increase in WMU students going overseas to study or work abroad. The university sent 579 students overseas during the 2007-08 academic year to more than 30 countries. The top five countries were the Czech Republic (83), Spain (51), United Kingdom (44), China (39) and France (37). Eighty-nine percent of those students studied through one of the University's many programs that are managed in collaboration with academic departments.

WMU awarded more than $400,000 in student scholarships for study abroad during the 2007 calendar year, with $385,000 coming from University sources. Its President's Grant for Study Abroad and Dean's Grant for Summer Study Abroad have been particularly influential in spurring the growth in study abroad enrollment.

Another major contributing factor is an initiative launched by the Haenicke Institute in fall 2007 to encourage faculty to develop new study abroad programs. Nineteen faculty-led programs are planned for the 2009 Summer I and Summer II sessions.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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