The University of Iowa

UI International enrollment at all-time high

November 20th, 2014

By Ben Marks, The Daily Iowan

While the University of Iowa’s international population may continue to increase, some students suggest officials are beginning to address some of the growing pains.

A report released by the International Student and Scholar Services shows that since 2007, the university’s international student population has more than doubled.

The population is currently at 4,360, the highest it’s been in the university’s history, and of that number, roughly 60 percent are undergraduates. Seven years earlier, there were 2,153 international students.

Michael advises students in the ISSS office

Michael Bortscheller, assistant director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) advises students in the International Programs office. Last year, ISSS saw its highest number of office visits.

With this increase, international Chinese students Shasha Ruan and Joyce Chen said they have seen a corresponding increase in the university’s commitment to international students.

“My friend’s name is really hard to pronounce,” Ruan said. “But my teacher always likes to try and will ask her how to pronounce it.”

This could be in part to the recent language coaching workshops the Tippie College of Business provided to its faculty earlier this year.

Some other programs Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas said the university has recently developed are Friends Without Borders, a program to match international and domestic undergrads with each other, and several partnerships with Iowa City and the Iowa City Downtown District to increase translation services.

Lee Seedorff, senior associate director of International Student and Scholar Services, said the increase has put some stress on her staff members as they try to cope with the influx of undergraduate students specifically.

“You definitely need different resources and skill sets across campus to deal with international undergrad increases,” she said.

Seedorff also said last year her office saw nearly 10,000 walk-in visits, the highest the office has ever seen, and last year her office increased their number of full-time advisors by six to deal with the influx.

Thomas attributes this rise to the university and Iowa City’s image abroad.

Rachel Chung and Soo Kyum Kim, students from Seoul, South Korea, said it was the university’s well-known programs, which drew them to attend.

“Mainly it was because of the programs,” Kim said. “I’m a psych major, and many programs such as psychology… business or engineering are really famous here.”

The biggest issue Ruan and Chen said they face on campus is actually getting out of the community of Chinese students that formed at the university.

“The majority of international students are Chinese, and I have a lot of Chinese friends; my roommate is Chinese,” Ruan said. “But my point in coming to study in America was to improve my English skills, and so I want to find American friends to practice my English on.”

More than 60 percent of international undergraduate students are from China, and Seedorff agrees while having a large subculture on campus can be beneficial for student comfort levels, it can also be problematic at times.

“You might not necessarily be practicing your English skills as much as you should, so that can really affect someone’s performance in the classroom,” she said.

After China, the most international students come from South Korea and India, but because of increased emphasis on American-based STEM programs and English study programs, the fastest growing international student populations are from Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

The future enrollment plans for international students remains unclear, but Thomas said rather than increase the population exponentially, the university is beginning to focus on finding higher performing and more qualified students.

“I think the University of Iowa has had strong visibility overall both because of our excellent programs,” he said. “But also because these students who are coming five or six thousand miles from home know they will come here, be safe, and get an excellent education.”