Iowa State hits record international student enrollment


Graphic: Azwan Azhar/ Iowa State Daily

Not only has Iowa State’s enrollment broke records in the last two years, there are also record numbers of international students coming to study and learn more about the culture.

Bailey Mcgrath

Iowa State has hit a record international student enrollment with 3,797 international students, a 287 increase from fall 2012. 

Unlike domestic students, international students are not attracted to Iowa State because they enjoyed their campus visit or are a Cyclone fan, said Timothy Tesar, enrollment services adviser in the Office of Admissions.

International students base their decision on academic programs and perceived academic quality often based on college rankings. Some of them hear about Iowa State through friends or family as well, Tesar said.

A Ra Lee, sophomore in pre-business from South Korea, said she came to Iowa State because of its high ranking.

Deepanshi Jain, graduate assistant in civil construction and environmental engineering from India, said she came to Iowa State “because of my goals and the construction management faculty here.”

The first time most international students visit Iowa State is when they are moving into their dorm room.

“Can you imagine what [it] would be like going somewhere on the other side of the planet that you’ve never been before that you just picked based on what you’ve read on the Internet?” said Phil Caffrey, associate director of Admissions. “It’s very, very different.”

Although they have universities available in their home countries, these students choose Iowa State for a variety of reasons.

The United States is the only country Tesar is aware of that does not have a national exam students must pass to be accepted into college. In China, only about 8 to 15 percent of students get in to college based on the test results, leaving a large amount of students who are not able to go to a Chinese university.

“[In] other countries, there are good universities and maybe space, but they just perceive that the United States is better, or they are just looking for a different experience,” Tesar said.

International students also come to the U.S. to gain a better “grounding” on the English language. In their eyes, it puts them ahead in the job market, said James Dorsett, director of International Students and Scholars Office.

“Because of language, I think it is hard to [meet] Americans,” said Junyeong Jeong, a nondegree student from South Korea. 

Unlike some other U.S. universities, Iowa State does not charge a separate fee for international students. They pay nonresidential tuition, $9,600 per semester, Tesar said.

Mohit Sharma, graduate student in business administration, came to Iowa State from India because his sister was here, but he said his main reason was that Iowa State’s fees fit into his budget.

Last year, Iowa State ranked No. 1 in the International Student Barometer for overall satisfaction for international students, Caffrey said.

“The International Student Barometer is a large scale survey that is put out by a company from the U.K. called i-graduate,” Caffrey said. “It covers all different parts of the student experience.”

Caffrey explained that the results help determine how international students are doing at Iowa State academically and culturally. Students usually have positive things to say about their experience here.

“In general what you hear them saying is that it’s friendly, it’s easy to get around, people are nice and they developed good friendships here,” Caffrey said.

About 11 percent of ISU students are international students.