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International student enrollment surges at ASU; study abroad numbers up

November 13, 2012

International students are enrolling at ASU in higher numbers than ever before, placing the university 15th in the nation last year among all colleges and universities, according to a report released this week from the Institute of International Education (IIE).

ASU has a record 5,127 international students enrolled in fall 2012, up 16 percent from last year’s 4,430. ASU shot up from 20th place last year, giving it the third highest international enrollment in the Pac-12, after USC and UCLA.

ASU students also studied abroad in record numbers, with 1,574 students traveling to other countries for academic study in 2010-11, the last year numbers were available.

International enrollment

The university draws students from 118 countries around the world because of the breadth of its programs and its increasing reputation, which has been enhanced by word of mouth on social media.

“More students are learning about the great educational opportunities available at ASU,” says David Burge, executive director of undergraduate admissions. “They hear about our academic programs from other students, and word travels quickly on social media platforms.”

ASU also has increased its recruiting efforts abroad, he said, with representatives visiting eight different countries. The university also participates in virtual college fairs, which are increasingly popular. A few months ago ASU launched its first website in Chinese.

“Families place a high value on an American education,” says James Brailer, executive director of the ASU Center for Global Education Services. “They believe that a degree from an American institution is a sound investment in their children’s future, and they see that ASU is an exceptional value among major research institutions.”

International students contribute more than $22.7 billion to the U.S. economy through their tuition and living expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Higher education is one of the United States’ top service sector exports.

For the third year, China is the leading country of origin for ASU international students. China’s enrollment grew 31 percent to 1,704, more than doubling over the past four years. Combined with word of mouth, this mirrors China’s growing middle class and its willingness to channel resources to their children’s education.

The second leading country is India, with 1,224 students enrolled, an increase of 22 percent over the previous year. Saudi Arabia increased 51 percent, to 353, reflecting a higher number who are sponsored by their government. The next highest countries of origin are South Korea (310), Canada (170), Taiwan (125), United Arab Emirates (107) and Kuwait (100).

These numbers reflect this fall’s enrollment, while the IIE compiles its ranking each year based on the previous year’s enrollment numbers. The IIE numbers also include students who are in a practical training program or are enrolled in the American English and Culture Program.

The most popular ASU major is engineering, with 2,186 students, followed by business, with 1,030 majors. Two-thirds of engineering majors are graduate students, while most business majors are undergraduates.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences drew 854 students, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts has 323, and the College of Technology and Innovation 228.

ASU’s efforts to grow its freshman class in recent years have borne fruit, with undergraduate international enrollment doubling over the past five years to 2,319. Graduate enrollment stands at 2,818, up 23 percent over five years.

The university has worked to bolster services to international students, increasing its advising staff and launching a pilot Buddy Program that pairs them with an American peer. 

“This fall we had about 20 pairs in the program and expect to grow it significantly,” said Brailer. “The aim is to provide international students with the chance to practice their English with their American counterpart and for the American peers to help international students immerse themselves in American life and culture.”

The university also has workshops for them on housing options, academic and cultural issues, student life, safety and security. Students also have the chance to learn about American football, basketball and baseball through interactions with other students and ASU coaching staff.

International Night

ASU has more than 40 international student groups and organizations that comprise the Coalition of International Students. They are hosting a free International Night at 8 p.m., Nov. 16 on Hayden Lawn, featuring performances and foods from Asia, Europe and Central America.

Performances will include groups showing traditional Palestinian dance, the ASU Tango Club, Soran-Bushi, which is a traditional Japanese fisherman dance, a Mongolian dance group, and a number of current popular songs from China and Latin America.

Study abroad

The number of ASU students studying abroad increased 13 percent, from 1,387 in 2009-10 to 1,574 in 2010-11, as reported in the IIE’s Open Doors report.

Spain was the most popular destination for overseas study, with 205 students, followed by the United Kingdom (122) and Italy (122). Even more students (265) chose to go to multiple destinations for study.

Notable trends were a five-fold increase in study abroad by health science majors and double the number of fine or applied art majors from the year before. Business majors had the largest representation overall (427), followed by social sciences (251) and humanities (224).

African-American student participation increased by 70 percent, and Hispanic student participation grew 14 percent. Graduate student participation went up 44 percent.