International students

For the past three years, Youngstown State University’s international student enrollment has grown by nearly 31 percent.

This fall, 199 undergraduate full-time international students are attending YSU — 14 more students than in the fall of 2011.

In 2008, the YSU Center for International Studies and Programs set out to achieve an international enrollment of 2 percent of full-time students by 2013.

CISP Director Jef Davis said they’ve reached about 1.75 percent already.

“There is a year or two lag, though,” he said. “I went in 2008 and 2009 and didn’t see increase until 2010 and 2011.”

Ikram Khawaja, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said a diverse student body prepares students for the “international market.”

“We have recruiting agencies in China and India. We need to continue to be proactive and aggressive,” Khawaja said. “We feel we have made great progress, but we have sights set on higher numbers. We’re not done.”

In 2008 and 2009, Davis traveled to eight different Middle Eastern countries in 16 days to recruit students and market YSU.

“It can be a challenge getting the information into the students’ hands,” Davis said. “But they can understand what we offer.”

Davis, along with representatives from about 25 other universities and institutions, traveled to major college fairs, meeting thousands of prospective students. He said he also actively partnered with international student advisers and visited high schools.

Davis traveled to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon and Central Asia.

He said the most successful trip was to the Persian Gulf.

“India is still the second largest group, and we haven’t had any success in Kazakhstan yet,” Davis said.

Another 48 international students attend the English Language Institute as non-credit students, studying for prerequisite English aptitude tests before enrolling in college.

“Those students aren’t necessarily ready in English proficiency,” Davis said.

In order to apply to attend YSU as an undergraduate, ELI students have to score a 5.5 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or the TOEFL, in order to apply for a bachelor’s degree. They must score at least a 550 on the International English Language Testing System, or the IELTS, for the master’s program.

Ramez Zaytoun, 27, received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in Syria. He decided to attend YSU for a master’s degree in electrical engineering or a master’s degree in business administration.

Davis said diversity is important in a university setting.

“Our local students often don’t meet with people from other parts of the world. It gives them a chance to meet and interact,” Davis said.