The number of international students enrolled at the University of Oregon decreased for the second year in a row, despite the increased outreach and retention efforts of the university.
In 2015, the international student enrollment sat at 13.6 percent in 2015, but it’s dropped to 11.8 percent in 2017, according to recent UO enrollment reports.
However, the decrease in international student enrollment has not had a substantial financial impact on the university, according to the international affairs office at UO. The university’s biggest concern lies in the loss of diversity on campus and the unique perspective it provides to students.
Lower international enrollment is a national trend due to the current political state of the United States, according to Chakris Kussalanant, director of marketing and communication for the office of international affairs.
“We have unfortunately given the impression to a lot of people around the world that the United States is not a welcoming country,”Kussalanant said.
To combat the lower numbers, the university has employed various new programs to reach out to international students before they are admitted, as well as provided students with several resources to ensure they are successful students at the university.
“If we in fact believe that the diversity of people ultimately helps inspire diversity of mind across our campus, losing our international students should be a loss to the spirit and values of our institution,” said Kussalanant.
While the number of international students has recently declined, according to the admissions data on the UO website, the number of students identifying as ethnic minorities has increased steadily over the years.
Kussalanant said many of these changes the university has no control over.
Impoverished economies around the world who cannot afford to send their children to the United States for college contribute to this trend, as well as the efforts other European countries have made to make themselves more accessible, according to Kussalanant.
For example, Germany launched a “Land of Ideas” campaign that aims to increase their international presence as a hub of ideas and innovation. Kussalanant said campaigns like these attract more international students to other institutions.
The financial impact on the university is not substantial, according to Abe Schafermeyer, director of international student and scholar services. International students pay the same as out of state students.
“Nonresident tuition is nonresident tuition whether you’re from California or Beijing,” Schafermeyer said.
Jim Rawlins, director of the office of admissions, said the university has increased its efforts to make UO accessible to international students. The office of admissions travels to approximately 15 countries each year to promote UO.
UO recruits students from around the world, and most of the international students come from Southeast Asia.
The university also has employed a liaison for international students to interact with before coming to the University. Last fall, the UO employed Shel Yang, a native of China to serve as an international admissions counselor.
This year, UO began accepting the common application for the incoming classes, making it the first public institution on the west coast to accept the common application, according to Rawlins.
The international student and scholar services department at the university works to provide international students with several resources to be successful at UO after they’ve been admitted.
These programs are funded by the international student fees paid at the time of their tuition.
The department offers peer mentorship programs for international first year students, academic resources such as tutoring and advising, as well as career preparation through workshops and networking events.
Following the travel ban last year, the university offered town hall meetings for international students to become informed and understand what was happening in the world.
“We want to make sure students feel like this is a place where they can live and learn comfortably and feel safe” Schafermeyer said.
The university department of international studies also partners with a Eugene nonprofit called The Friendship Foundation to connect international students with the Eugene community by offering various services for the international students.
Schafermeyer said the families involved with the Friendship Foundation will pick up students from the airport and let them stay in their homes until they move into residence halls.
This program is not limited to international students, and includes international faculty as well. The friendship foundation welcomed UO Provost Jaynath Banavar to the university when he joined last July.
The university also has helpful programs such as ExplOregon, aimed at integrating international students with Oregon students.
“We want the UO to be a diverse learning environment where people from around the world contribute their perspective to the overall learning that happens,” Schafermeyer said.