YSU strives to double international enrollment

Jef Davis
Jef Davis

As part of a larger push by Youngstown State University to increase the enrollment of international students, Jef Davis, director of the YSU Center for International Studies and Programs (CISP), will be visiting college recruitment fairs in six Asian countries.

“YSU has doubled our international enrollment over the last six years but we are still lower than we think we should be for a university of our caliber,” Davis said.

Randy Dunn, YSU president, has also voiced a similar opinion and has thrown full support behind the attempts to increase YSU’s international footprint.

“I do believe strongly that we can grow our international student enrollment and institutional partnerships with a thoughtful plan. Our percentage of international students currently, in my opinion, is too low for an institution of our size and stature. So I am happy to see some reinvigorated efforts in this vein and am pushing hard to see increased outcomes from that work,” Dunn said.

For three weeks, Davis will travel to around 25 recruitment fairs in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and China.

Davis said that international students not only bring international connections and diverse perspectives to the classroom and the student body, but they also help increase enrollment and bolster the local economy.

“We are also looking to increasing our total enrollment. It is no secret that Ohio in general, North East Ohio in particular, is experiencing a population decline, not an increase. … International students are one part of that answer,” Davis said. “There is another aspect of this that I think gets lost sometimes, it is the economic impact on our area. You know international students come, and they only have a suitcase or two full of stuff, so they have got a lot of things to buy. They contribute about $6 million a year to the local economy.”

YSU will attempt to attract attendees at the fair by showcasing YSU’s highly competitive tuition and its emphasis on teaching.

“I think we are unusual in that we are a full-fledged university with a full range of programs and research opportunities as many larger schools, but our faculty teach a fairly heavy load. They are primarily teaching faculty with expectations as opposed to researchers that may teach a class or two,” Davis said. “We offer that at a very affordable tuition rate compared to other universities, even with the out-of-state differential that makes YSU about $14,000 a year for international students.”

Prospective international students are treated similarly to national students in their application process. The only additional requirement is an English proficiency test.

“The additional credential they have to present is a standardized test of English language proficiency. Those who lack that can still come but study English language full time through our English language institute until they are ready for academic study,” Davis said.

This is not a plan enacted solely by CISP; the administration has thrown support behind the push for increase. Ikram Khawaja, YSU Provost and vice president for academic affairs, is a flagship member of the initiative.

“Right now our emphasis is to develop our distance footprint right now,” Khawaja said. “We need to have partnerships with universities — that is a sustainable way student exchanges take place. We need to have recruiters go out just like they recruit nationally or locally. … It is a multifaceted approach we need to do. There is absolutely no reason why our international population isn’t double to what it needs to be.”