Enriching the student body with an international population is a chief goal among universities and colleges and the latest statistics point to success in this objective.
Climbing three places from last year, Penn State’s University Park campus landed the 12th spot -– its highest position yet -– in terms of total international students enrolled, according to an annual Open Doors report, said Sharon Witherell, director of public affairs at the Institute of International Education.
International student enrollment at national universities and colleges has seen a 6 percent increase since last year, bringing the total to 764,495 international students studying in the United States, Director of Media Relations for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Susan Pittman wrote in an email
Pittman attributed the increase to strengthened institutional connections among countries and effective recruitment efforts put forth by educational institutions, as well as far-reaching knowledge of U.S. colleges and universities on the international level, she said.
Pennsylvania ranks sixth in hosting international students, Pittman wrote.
International Institute of Education Executive Vice-President Peggy Blumenthal wrote in an email that the survey takes into account the amount of U.S institutions registering international students in the fall of 2011. This includes undergraduates, graduate students, non-degree students and students on Optional Practical Training at all public and private colleges and universities that participated in the survey, she said.
Blumenthal said, aside from the social and educational impact universities reap, the economic impact of international student enrollment on the state of Pennsylvania for 2011-12 academic year amounts to more than $1.07 billion, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
Currently Penn State hosts 6,388 international students university-wide and the University Park campus currently boasts the highest number of international students in the state, according to fall 2011 numbers found in the Open Doors Report, said Masume Assaf, director of International Student and Scholar Advising at Penn State .
“We have a lot of students who are sponsored by their government or through an agency such as Institute of International Education,” she said.
Juliana Lima , a native of Brazil, said the specialized curriculum offered at Penn State in her area of interest moved her to pursue a U.S. education.
“The hospitality industry in Brazil is not really focused as a major area of study,” Lima (junior-hotel and restaurant management) said. “It’s more like general business that people go into there, and I wanted something more specific to my education.”
She said friends from her high school, who came to Penn State ahead of her, told her about the university.
Nadine Abulaban, from Kuwait, said that U.S. schools equip students with a more well-rounded experience in terms of educational curriculum, extracurricular activities and more advanced technological resources.
“I was applying to universities on the East Coast, and Penn State was one of the top business schools, so I applied to this one,” Abulaban (senior-finance and economics) said.
Aside from providing diversity on campus, Assaf said that the presence of international student enrollment lends itself to multiple benefits, such as increased interest in studying abroad for American undergraduates.
“Many students can’t go overseas or don’t go overseas,” she said, “so this is one way of helping them have an international perspective by meeting internationals in the classroom and it also provides a different perspective in the classroom.”