CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is launching a new initiative to increase its international student enrollment that will broaden the campus experience for all students and rebuild a segment of its student body that has decreased significantly in the post-9/11 era.
OSU will become the first university in the United States to partner with INTO University Partnerships, an organization that has worked with institutions in the United Kingdom to increase their international student enrollment.
The initiative will recruit international students into a one-year “pathway” program that university officials estimate will enroll 500 to 650 participants annually within five years.
“Like many universities around the country, our international student enrollment has declined because of visa and immigration issues,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president. “The scarcity of state revenues has precluded us from being able to successfully recruit international students to rebuild our international student population, particularly at the undergraduate level.
“This partnership with INTO will help us diversify our student body and enhance the experience for our other students on campus,” Randhawa said.
Over the past decade, the percentage of OSU’s student body represented by international students has been halved, and now represents about 4.8 percent of its overall student body. The university’s strategic plan calls for a target of 9 percent.
Under the new partnership, OSU and INTO will bring in an estimated 150 to 200 new international students beginning in the fall of 2009. During their first year, the students will be enrolled in the INTO Oregon State University pathway program that will ease their transition to a new country, improve their English skills, and introduce them to courses in the university’s baccalaureate core. The program will initially be housed at West International Hall.
OSU officials estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the students enrolled in the pathway program will continue on at OSU as degree-seeking undergraduate students. In the summer of 2009, the university will begin construction of a new teaching/residential center that will include a residence hall with classrooms and laboratory space. Bonds will pay for construction and be repaid with the fees from participating international students. The new facility, scheduled for completion in January of 2011, will be located adjacent to Halsell Hall and Bloss Hall on campus.
Recruiting international students is becoming a top priority for many universities in the United States and elsewhere. INTO University Partnerships has developed a model that gives international students a year for transition into the campus environment in a new country, at the same time allowing universities to define their own criteria for student success and directly observe those who go on to apply for admission to the university.
“Having direct observation of students on campus is much more effective than evaluations overseas, where assessment can be remote and based on a third party,” said Amy McGowan INTO’s U.S. operations manager. “INTO brings resources and expertise into the partnership, while the academic controls are determined and managed by the university.”
INTO’s first partner, the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, saw the number of international students in its pathway program grow from 40 in 2005 to 540 in 2007. The number of countries represented by East Anglia’s international students rose from 20 to 45, and more than 70 percent of the students in the program ended up seeking degrees at the university.
Randhawa said he was impressed by INTO’s track record in recruiting strong students to schools in the United Kingdom and said a partnership with the organization was much more attractive than outsourcing international student recruitment.
“With a partnership, the university maintains control over the faculty and staff that we hire, the students we admit, and the curriculum that we teach,” Randhawa pointed out. “Those factors were critical in the partnership.”
Randhawa said that OSU and INTO would split revenues from the first-year pathway program on a 50-50 basis. After the first year, successful program participants will transition to become full-time students in one of the degree programs offered by the university. If the partnership generates the expected student enrollment, OSU should realize approximately $15 million to $25 million annually at the end of the transition period.
The additional revenues from increased full-time enrollment will help OSU to enhance faculty capacity in core teaching areas, and improve student services.
Randhawa said that with a significant number of students coming to OSU from countries with fast-growing economies, he expects international student interest through this program to be most acute in business, engineering and other professional programs, though there will be a need to increase faculty capacity in liberal arts and science to teach baccalaureate core classes.
The most important factor in the initiative, however, will be the cultural component additional international students bring to the university, Randhawa said.
“Our international enrollment has been going down at the same time society is becoming increasingly globalized,” Randhawa pointed out. “International students bring with them different experiences and perspectives that are critical to a global learning environment. We need to aggressively recruit successful international students and this partnership is the best way for us to accomplish that goal.
“This will enhance the experience for all students at OSU through a learning environment that integrates cultural and global enrichment,” he added.