Decrease in international students slight concern for Tech president

With the international student population down, Tech’s president speaks on economic impact

Decrease in international students slight concern for Tech president
Lawrence Schovanec, president of Texas Tech, discusses the economic impact international students have on the campus on Nov. 19.

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - On the same day Texas Tech was honored with the Senator Paul Simon Campus Internationalization award the Wall Street Journal published an article about the decreasing number of international students on U.S. university campuses.

This coincidental clash of topics put into perspective issues that were talked about during a panel discussion Tech President Lawrence Schovanec participated in while in Washington D.C. on Nov. 13. The discussion included Schovanec and three other university presidents and all spoke about efforts to continue internationalization efforts on their campuses.

It was the second time Tech received the award for its efforts to promote internationalization and a globally-aware student body. But the award also comes at a time when Tech documented a decrease in international students enrolled on its campus.

The decrease has been estimated to be around two percent, Schovanec said. This year, international undergraduate enrollment sits at 866, which is down from 1,611 in 2017 while graduate enrollment is at 1,319, down from 1,464 in 2018, according to the Texas Tech Fact Book.

“It begins with personal relationships, when you recruit those students, especially at the graduate level, it’s very much about coming here to work with a specific faculty member,” Schovanec said. “In your communication with those students you really have to convey on a personal level of the support they would find, both financially, but in terms of the culture.”

People who have researched the decrease believe it is because of a negative perception of the United States. But decreased enrollment is not just because of international issues, he said. When the economy is healthy it sometimes becomes more difficult to recruit students for master’s programs.

For Tech, the economic impact the students have is sizable, at an estimated $70.2 million, according to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers. Tech is ranked by NAFSA as the 10th out of the top 10 universities in Texas that receive the most amount of money from international students for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Statistics from the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers show the economic impact of international students in Texas. (Source: NAFSA website)
Statistics from the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers show the economic impact of international students in Texas. (Source: NAFSA website)

The No. 1 spot is the University of Texas at $221.7 million and trailing at second is Texas A&M University with $204.6 million, according to NAFSA statistics.

In regional terms, NAFSA statistics show Tech is the top earner when it comes to money from the international student population. Wayland Baptist University, which has 87 international students system-wide in 2017 and 78 in 2018, gets about $1.8 million from international students.

“For all those reasons we need to be very diligent and we cannot be passive in recruiting international students,” Schovanec said. “To overcome the perceptions mentioned, it almost begins at a personal level of communicating with those students.”

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