By Kristen East, The Daily Iowan
The University of Iowa is spending thousands to recruit students from other countries. But compared to the money those students bring to the local economy, that sum is tiny.
The UI spends roughly $130,000 a year sending representatives to visit schools and attend recruitment fairs all over the globe, said Downing Thomas, the dean of International Programs. Recruiters travel to roughly 20 countries.
“If we spend $130,000 [on recruitment], it’s a little much if we only brought five students,” Thomas said. “But we’re bringing hundreds of students in, so we find it’s a good investment.”
This fall the UI saw its largest international student body, enrolling 3,442 students from other countries.
Officials say these students significantly affect local, state, and national economies.
According to the fall 2010 report from the International Student & Scholar Services, international students at the UI contribute $67 million to the local economy each year. Looking across the whole state, international students at Iowa’s public and private colleges add $245 million to the economy. And nationally, officials estimate students from abroad boost the national economy by $18.8 billion annually.
Though the UI didn’t do any formal international recruitment before 2007, officials have worked to develop an international strategy in recent years that includes attracting prospective students, educating students in countries overseas, and providing more study abroad opportunities for Iowans, Thomas said.
The UI covers most of the expenses, such as travel and lodging. Airfare in economy class is purchased, and hotels are often included in the recruitment package. Prices for recruitment tours can vary between regions. The cost of international recruitment programs typically ranges from $10,000 to $20,000, Thomas said.
Each UI recruiter is dedicated to one region and sometimes work with numerous outside organizations.
“In some cases, we’re working with the government of those countries, as in Thailand and Turkey, which organize for universities to come,” said Michael Barron, the director of UI Admissions.
Scott King, the director of International Students and Scholars, is recruiting students in the Middle East. He was recently in Amman, Jordan, and he will continue to tour the Middle East throughout October.
“[Amman] is always a good place for us, because there will be lots of interest,” King wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “We do have some name recognition here, and there is a lot of interest in our programs.”
Thomas said the UI appeals to foreign students through multiple areas.
“It’s very strong academically, it’s in a safe environment in a small city focused on academics,” he said. “Students and parents abroad look to those qualities.”