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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Budget limits UA’s ability to attract int’l students

    The number of international students enrolled at the UA has dropped almost 25 percent since 2002, with international undergraduate enrollment rates at their lowest since 1992.

    There were 2,261 international graduate and undergraduate students who enrolled at the UA in Fall 2007, compared to 3,011 enrolled in Fall 2002, said Kirk Simmons, executive director at the Office of International Affairs.

    “”Since Sept. 11, there has been a significant decline in international student enrollment,”” Simmons said. “”We were unusually affected by the fallout from Sept. 11. We lost 64 percent of our Middle Eastern student enrollment.””

    Whereas most other institutions in the U.S. have recovered their enrollment to previous levels, Simmons said that the UA has been unable to reach these enrollment rates, likely because of the historically strong enrollment record the UA once had with students from the Middle East.

    “”We need a much more aggressive international recruitment policy,”” Simmons said. “”It was perceived that it wasn’t necessary. Our reputation certainly attracted some of the best and brightest international students in the world.””

    One of the aspects of the aftermath of Sept. 11 is that there is now greater competition among institutions of higher education to recruit top students, Simmons said.

    “”The United Kingdom, New Zealand, France and Germany have aggressive strategies to recruit the best students in the world,”” he said. “”The U.S. will never have a collective recruitment strategy. Therefore, we are somewhat late in the game developing.””

    At the UA, budget constraints limit what resources can be used to attract international students, said Kristina Davis, senior assistant director of international divisions at the UA’s Office of Admissions. Davis works to enroll and retain degree-seeking under graduates internationally.

    The office works primarily in the service of students in the state of Arizona, Davis said. “”That leaves us with very little wiggle room to attract students internationally.””

    In spite of the limited resources, the UA has engaged in a number of strategies, Davis said. These efforts include trips abroad to Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Dubai, she said.

    The UA also works with alumni abroad and departments at the UA that might be traveling internationally who are willing to augment their efforts, Davis said. These efforts include stopping at high schools and other universities to attract undergraduates and graduate students.

    The resource limitations for attracting international students has led to some innovative strategies as well, Davis said.

    “”We’re trying to do online chats with students and parents, especially parents, to give them the opportunity to get on and ask questions about the UA,”” she said.

    Many international families are concerned about their students’ safety, and since these families are typically unable to visit the UA, the admissions office is trying to find new ways to reach out to other countries, Davis said.

    The competitive nature of enrollment worldwide has led to the branding and promotion of universities, Simmons said. These advertising efforts have carried the institutions that practice them well, he said, and have attracted some of the best students, research dollars and professors in the world.

    “”You will see a branding or promotion of the university, crass as it may seem, that markets the university to the world,”” Simmons said. “”To attract the best and brightest students, teachers and researchers.””

    In addition to working to bring in more Middle Eastern students, Simmons said that Latin America is a strong niche to draw students from, given the UA’s reputation in Mexico and beyond.

    “”We are working with the new UA office in Mexico City,”” Davis said.

    The office is branching out to several Latin American countries where the UA is trying to enhance its efforts, she added.

    “”There’s an untapped population of extraordinarily talented and bright students across Latin America,”” Simmons said. “”We understand that if we’re going to build a strong student body, we should capture that talent on some level.””

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