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The BG News
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November 30, 2023

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Int’l enrollment at BGSU above average

Despite recently enforced background checks and regulations for international student enrollment since 9/11, the number of foreign students attending the University is still on the rise, beating the national average.

Foreign student enrollment has increased 3.5 percent this year, while the national average has dropped by 2.4 percent.

As noted by the Institute of International Education in an annual report examining the 2003-2004 year on academic mobility this past month, this is the first nationwide decrease in enrollment since 1971.

There were 610 students from 90 foreign countries on campus this fall semester, and overall, the University has seen a 7.4 percent increase in international students since fall 2001.

Included in the numbers are 16 freshmen from 12 countries admitted this fall, said Director of Undergraduate Admission Gary Swegan.

Numbers for this semester are not available yet, as they are still being counted and students are continuing to register, but they should remain generally the same as last semester’s, said Jeffrey Grilliot, director of International Programs.

Nationwide, 480 institutions have seen more decreases than increases in foreign student enrollment, according to the Institute’s report.

Reasons for the declining number of international students nationwide, Grilliot said, include a slowdown in the process for issuing student visas after an electronic tracking system was created following Sept. 11, 2001.

One of the post 9/11 implementations is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which colleges and universities were required to have installed by July 2003.

The University was in the top 5 percent of schools to successfully implement SEVIS, Grilliot said.

SEVIS regards information about current and newly admitted international students, and includes the expected length of their stay in the United States. SEVIS is part of a database that is compared with names on intelligence or law enforcement lists.

“I believe that we [at the University] had an aggressive approach in order to react quickly to the visa problems, and I think that that helped us,” Grilliot said.

Some problems that other schools encountered involved the volume of international students that are admitted and processed, and the time it took to get SEVIS up and running. The University has an experienced staff and a medium number of international students that allowed them to process all the students quickly, Grilliot said.

Another issue may be the language barrier, Swegan said.

“It’s difficult to recruit undergraduate students when the University does not have an intensive English language program. We tend to get and require students to have some proficiency in the English language,” he said.

In addition, the number of foreign students may be attributed to the location of the University in a basically safe and rural setting, he said.

Other related reasons that have contributed to the national decline include that prospective students from certain countries have been subject to 30-day background checks, and by the time they were cleared, they missed deadlines and couldn’t attend U.S. universities. Some may also have been deterred by a perception that the country isn’t safe due to the threat of terrorism.

“In general, the cost of education nationally is going up and there’s more competition from Australia, Canada and the UK,” Grilliot said.

Grilliot recently made a trip to Southeast Asia to recruit prospective students. During that trip, nearly 1,000 inquiry cards about the University were completed, he said.

“I’m really happy for BGSU, and we hope that we continue to build on the success. It always takes a lot of hard work,” Grilliot said. “Securing visas for international students is a long and complicated process. There are also factors with other issues, such as the embassies that issue the visas.”

Some students have responded, and the University is now in the process of receiving applications from them, Grilliot said.

“We have several students that I met in the fall that have already been admitted, and other students are still in the application process,” he said. “We will continue to follow-up on the contacts in Southeast Asia and we’re going to continue to respond as quickly as possible.”

Studying abroad is very valuable, Grilliot said.

“The students who come here get a good education and they also learn about us, our culture and what it’s like to be an American,” he said. “It’s not what you see in the movies or on television, but actually interacting with fellow students. In some countries from which the students come, they may not have the same educational opportunities that we have here.

“We’re evaluating the numbers now to see if we’re going to continue this effort,” Grilliot said. “One of the things the University thinks is very important is providing all of our students the opportunity to learn about other nations, and there are several ways to do that, and one way is to have international students come here.”

The number of graduate students is higher at both the University and nationwide, Grilliot said.

“One of the reasons is that a two-year degree is less expensive than a four-year degree and graduate students are more focused on their research,” he said.

The majority of international students at the University, as well as nationwide, have come from India and China.

While the number of degree-seeking, foreign graduate students at the University has remained at just over 400, the number of undergraduates increased to 153 this fall, after having dropped to 97 in 2003.

The remaining international students are considered guests–they are not seeking a degree but are fully enrolled.

“We think there is great value in diversifying the student population in general,” Swegan said.

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