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Most since 1994
WSU sees record enrollment of international students
Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009
By Barbara Petura, University Relations
WSU has 1,447 international students this fall semester, a record surpassing the previous high of 1,442 in 1994.
The international student population overall is up 12 percent from last fall and 27 percent from 2006, according to WSU's Office of International Enrollment.
Almost all of the international students, or 1,343, are enrolled on the Pullman campus. Others are spread across WSU's three regional campuses and its distance degree programs.
Together they make up 5.5 percent of all WSU enrollments.
The past 15 years have witnessed a steady stream of challenges for attracting international students to American universities, including WSU, said Paul Svaren, international enrollment manager.
Among them were the Asian economic crisis of 1997; severe drought and fires in Indonesia and Malaysia in 1997-1998 with resulting economic turmoil; the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide attacks on the United States; and the SARS disease outbreak in 2002-2003, Svaren said.
At the same time, universities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom increased their recruiting of international students, he said. Also, recruitment of international students by other universities in the United States increased significantly.
Fall semester of 2000 saw WSU’s smallest international enrollment, at 1,081 students, during the past 15 years.
"The new wealth in China is dramatic, and that is one key reason for the uptick in our international enrollment," Svaren said. "More Chinese students are able to study abroad with the support of their families."
He noted as well that American consulates in China are now issuing visas more readily to Chinese undergraduate students planning to study in the United States.
International students at WSU come from 96 countries, with the largest numbers coming from China, South Korea, India, Hong Kong and Japan. The number from China has almost doubled in the past three years, to 401 students this fall.
The proportion of undergraduate and graduate international students has changed over the past 15 years, data from the Office of International Enrollment shows. In 1994, 65 percent of international students were undergraduates while today the proportion is close to 50-50. In this fall's international enrollment are 714 graduate students, 683 undergraduate students and 50 non-degree students.
The increase in international students at WSU in the last three years mirrors national trends. According to the Institute of International Education 2008 annual report "Open Doors," almost 625,000 international students attended U.S. higher education institutions in 2007-2008, an all-time record. IIE said roughly 4 percent of the 18 million students enrolled at U.S. postsecondary institutions are international students.
For a national picture of trends in international enrollment, see charts in the Open Doors report.