US International Higher Education

Lessons Learned: New Partnerships and Serving International Students Drive Growth

Part 4: New Partnerships and Serving International Students Drive Growth

Last month we examined ways international admissions offices augmented their outreach to prospective international students in an effort to ease the impact of the 2016 presidential election’s rhetoric. Faced with the uncertainty of how government policy changes and presidential tweets might impact prospective international students and parents, international admissions professionals needed to adapt and adjust.

As we wrap up this Lessons Learned series, we’ll explore how new partnerships and investment in current international students has helped to reshape colleges’ recruitment strategies.

  1. Adapt to challenging circumstances through diversifying markets
  2. Adjust messaging and methods of communicating with prospective international students.
  3. Build new partnerships to show commitment to international student recruitment.
  4. Invest in meeting needs of the wide range of international students on our campuses.
Building new partnerships

Understanding that existing ways of doing business needed to change, meant for many institutions that they could not succeed alone. Like we saw post-9/11 state consortia represented a new opportunity to band together toward a common goal. In recent months, new state groups like Study Maryland have burst onto the scene with a variety of activities designed to attract international students. This group has recently held an international student fair in Baltimore for students already in U.S. Study Maryland, through its parent organization Maryland International Education Consortium. They have established a range of partnerships to broaden the appeal for students who wish to study at Maryland institutions.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, a partnership with a former EducationUSA adviser from Pakistan helped bring Pakistani high school students to visit UIC during the summer months exposed the university to students who might never have considered it previously. Richard O’Rourke, Associate Director, Office of Admissions, believes “this partnership with campus visits is a good example of something we are doing differently. Also, we have been part of the Chicagoland Counselors Tour which bring counselors from all over the world to campus.” Having prospective students from abroad as well as international school counselors on campus gives institutions a huge boost with influencers on what life would be like on campus.

Even large flagship public institutions have explored new and different partnerships in recruitment, some starting in elementary and secondary schools abroad. Ryan Griffin, Director, Office of International Admission, at the University of Missouri, indicated that “In Brazil and Vietnam we have also benefited from our College of Education’s Mizzou K-12 program providing English language curriculum at several private secondary schools, and thus being an introduction to Mizzou at a younger age for many of these students and families.” Indirectly, through their teachers working abroad at several private secondary schools, their home institution receives largely positive exposure with an important target audience.

How have community colleges explored new partnerships since the 2016 elections? Maret Matthew, International Student Services Adviser at Parkland College in Illinois, shares that her partnerships have been slow in developing, but are now ramping up significantly. After signing their first agent contract “with Wholeren (in China) we will look at using additional agents in the future (IDP being one of those).” Matthew is also looking beyond agents to grow their international student population at Parkland and hopes to “utilize the services of EducationUSA and U.S. Commercial Services.”

Investing in current students

As was the case after 9/11 in the United States, certain international student demographics on college campuses felt targeted in the wake of all the acerbic anti-immigrant fervor whipped up during the presidential election campaign. How did international admissions and student services offices respond to a growing unease among their overseas students?

In many cases, particularly after the initial travel bans went into place, open meetings held on many U.S. college campuses addressed current student concerns about what they could or should do as it related to travel during upcoming break periods, returning home for family events, and even simply feeling safe. After the initial furor died down, campuses increased efforts in educating the college and surrounding communities the real value of international students to our higher education institutions and beyond.

No movement expressed this feeling more clearly that the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign. As we’ve discussed in a previous article, #YAWH changed the way institutions tell their stories. Through various videos from departments on campus, colleges not only sought to convey their openness to prospective students and parents from overseas, but also to assuage fears of current internationals that they were indeed welcome. Nowhere was that commitment more significant than at Eastern Michigan University where #YAWH banners and signage all across campus touted to all, especially their current internationals, that they indeed had a home on their campus.

Without question, we are in an era of a continually shifting, increasingly competitive global playing field. Institutions that play the long game and balance the need for a diversified, comprehensive international student recruitment strategy will be best placed to sustain future downturns and thrive in more robust days ahead. By being nimble in our responses and far-reaching in scope, valuing partnerships and investing in meeting students’ needs, U.S. universities can succeed internationally.

Starting next month, we’ll take in depth looks at key markets for U.S. colleges and universities and explore where the best opportunities may lie. First up, Vietnam.

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