Although overall enrollment numbers decreased this fall, more students from other countries have come to campus.
Carla Coppi, director of the center for international education, said undergraduate international student enrollment is up by 16 percent. She said the total number of undergraduate international students at SIU went from 337 in fall 2011 to 390 in fall 2012. Coppi said the increase is partly because of a concentrated effort to reach out to students in other countries through online recruitment efforts, a strong SIUC representative presence in multiple countries and testimonies by friends or relatives who have previously attended.
Cheryl Barnett, international recruitment coordinator, said her position has changed from a part- to full-time recruitment tactic since she took it, so an increase in international students is well deserved.
“I have been working on a full recruitment strategy by getting our name into the market and actually going and meeting international students to identify what they are looking for,” Barnett said.
She said virtual fairs also play a big role in connecting with prospective students.
Virtual fairs are set up by specific websites, Barnett said, and schools will pay to put representatives in the booths through webcams so SIUC staff and students can answer any questions or concerns in a more visual way when an international student attends the online event.
Barnett said she took part in a virtual fair with Brazilian students in April that yielded a strong turnout when she went to Brazil last week. Thus, she said, the online fairs play a vital role to connect people and supplement promotional work the school will do in the future.
Some reasons international students choose to attend SIUC, Barnett said, are its location, the amount of counselors in other countries aware of the school and word of mouth about the university’s programs.
Farah Jayos, a junior from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia studying psychology, said her adviser, who also attended SIUC, told her that the school was a good choice.
There are many reasons international students choose to attend SIUC, Jayos said, but for her it was for the experience of living in another country and the chance to tell future employers she has studied abroad.
“If I were to graduate here and go back to Malaysia, it looks really good on my resume,” Jayos said. “Employers will actually hire people who study abroad more than someone who has a local degree.”
Jayos said another reason she chose to attend SIUC is because she receives in-state tuition.
Coppi said some Chinese students are offered in-state tuition because of a contract between SIUC and the university the student previously attended. The contract states if a student from the specified college chooses to enroll in SIUC, his or her tuition will be at the in-state price.
These contracts were made because of the long history of study abroad programs between SIUC and China, Coppi said.
Even though there was a slight increase in international enrollment, Coppi said, the rise in numbers would be more substantial if it wasn’t so difficult for Indian students to secure visas and deal with financial issues back home.
Coppi said there are normally more than 100 Indian students who attend the university, but there are only 40 Indian students enrolled this year.
India’s economy has also played a large part in the amount of Indian students at the university this year.
“The economy in India is extremely volatile, and there are families who have been very negatively impacted by the economic downturn in India,” Coppi said. “All the (U.S.) universities were saying ‘We’re very worried that we’re not going to see the Indian figures that we have in the past,’ and that is absolutely what happened this year.”
Despite this, Chancellor Rita Cheng said there are even more undertakings to encourage international student enrollment, and she expects it to increase for years to come.
“Because a truly global university welcomes students to study on the campus but also encourages their undergraduate students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities, so we’re really going to be looking for ways to expand that this year, so stay tuned,” Cheng said.
With the tough competition for international students and so many universities to choose from, Coppi said she’s glad to see prospective students choosing SIUC.
She said she’s proud to say most students reported they received information about the university through word of mouth by alumni, which goes to show how far back the university’s history goes with other countries.
“We do such a fine job with our students from around the globe that our most powerful recruiter is a satisfied customer, and I truly believe that,” Coppi said.