Making an institution attractive to international students can be hard work. International students require support as they adapt to the culture of the United States. They need support academically, and potentially linguistically . . . So, is it worthwhile to invest valuable resources to students that will be collecting an education and potentially going home?
The answer is becoming an increasingly resounding ‘YES!’ International students provide institutions with important cultural and economic connections to the students’ home countries. As of 2012-2013, U.S. institutions hosted 819,644 international students – a record number.[i] Recent studies have shown that most foreign students come from some of the most rapidly growing cities in emerging markets. Further, foreign students study the crucial STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in far greater numbers than U.S. students as a whole. According to the Brookings Institution, 45% of foreign students extend their visas and continue to work in the same metropolitan area as their college or university.[ii] Not only do foreign students provide the valuable service of creating an increasing international community on campus. They also contribute substantially to the economies of their host communities.
How does a school market itself to these international students? There are simple ways to garner this international attention:
1. Social Media:
Just as U.S. students are increasing relying on social media to garner information that assists their decision making process, so are international students. Facebook, as an example, reports that nearly 82% of its daily users are outside of the United States and Canada.[iii] Schools can also create their own social networks which can be utilized not only to connect with students, but to drive the conversation, and monitor what these students view as important.
2. Institutional Website:
Schools should make a point to provide a content-rich and easily navigable website. If students are being recruited from a specific country, region or area, there should be a web-presence in the appropriate language(s) that will allow prospective international students to gain a greater understanding of the school in their native language. This will also help reach the parents, family, and friends of international students. The Monterey Institute for International Studies, a school that comprised of 28% international students, provides a link on their websites allowing users to select the language with which to view the site. Including English, the site can be viewed in ten different languages! The web address is: http://www.miis.edu/
3. Recruitment Fairs:
There is no better place to connect with international students, than on their own turf. Institutions can take advantage of International Student Fairs in various cities around the globe. The facilitators of fairs, are often intimately familiar with the market for international students within their countries, and can assist colleges and universities with formulating an effective message. Examples of hosts, and facilitators of recruitment fairs are ICEF, https://www.icef.com/, American International Education Foundation, http://www.aief-usa.org/, and the Council of International Schools, http://www.cois.org/.
4. Partnerships with Organizations with an International Brand:
Connecting with students in a meaningful way can be difficult. Look for additional marketing opportunities with credit card companies trying to broaden their reach in the education market, card brands such as: UnionPay, JCB, and BC Card as examples. These networks have high market share in the countries of China, Japan and Korea.
Connecting with international students will help an institution raise its profile. Additionally, international students can provide both fellow students and host universities with important global connections. Attracting international students and creating a truly international community on campus can be yet another way to enrich campus life.
Many schools are actively engaged in bringing additional international students on campus. The Orlando Sentinel (http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2014-04-08/news/os-florida-international-students-20140404_1_international-students-foreign-students-west-florida) examined the steps Florida schools are taking to attract international students. These schools have made a concerted effort, and have stated goals for international enrollment. Certainly these steps and benchmarks will reap results.
[i] Institute of International Education, “opendoors® 2013 Fast Facts.” http://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors
[ii] Neil G. Ruiz, “The Geography of Foreign Students in the U.S. Higher Education: Origins and Destinations.” http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2014/geography-of-foreign-students
[iii] Facebook, “Company Info.” http://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/ (current as of October 9, 2014)