Budget cuts might negatively affect international students

Katherine Marcheski

Tuition hikes and budget cuts might make Iowa State a less attractive institution for international students.

With all the news of possible budget cuts, there is a fear of losing programs, a hike in tuition and drop in the excellence the university has offered through staff, class sizes and amenities on campus.

“If cuts happen, the university will have to decide how they handle things, they will have to be creative,” said James Dorsett, director of the International Students and Scholars. “This office will exist though, unless they decide international students are not allowed to come here. The students — just like minority students and just like out-of-state students, and basically anyone who is not from Iowa — help make this campus a richer place, and allow experiences a student can only get from being exposed to people from all over the world.”

Currently there are more than 3,000 students from 106 countries that attend Iowa State, according to the Office of International Students and Scholars.

International students also positively impact the local economy.

“It’s very beneficial,” said Daniel Otto, professor of economics. “They pay out-of-state tuition, they do not receive the same scholarships that would be available for Iowan or out-of-state students, and economically Ames benefits from having more people spend money in town, outside the university.”

In the past few years, international enrollment has stayed steady and then took a spike to an upward trend in about 2007.

“So far we’ve been able to keep our numbers up. Traditionally we’ve been a magnet for graduate students, but now we are becoming more and more attractive to undergraduate students as well,” Otto said.

It costs the same amount of resources to teach international students, so there has never been a negative side financially or economically to having so many students come from outside the United States to Iowa State.

“If there is a budget cut, I don’t think it will impact the international presence; the university will just have to prioritize on how to keep up recruitment and keep our ‘product’ good,” Otto said. “There are international students at the two other regent universities as well, and I think that will be helpful to see in this upcoming budget.”

More than 70 percent of ISU students hail from Iowa, and the other 30 percent come from around the country and world. Although the international population is small compared to the students from the United States, it is still enough to impact the school and community. And the numbers continue to grow.

“Just a few years ago, the number of undergraduates were under a thousand, and they are growing, and have continued to grow,” Dorsett said. “2009 and 2010 were the highest years.”

International students have a number of requirements to fulfill as students on campus. They need to be full-time students, cannot work off of campus until they complete their first academic year and must be enrolled in the Intensive English and Orientation Program if not proficient in English upon arrival.

All students can benefit from having a diverse student body, said ISU President Gregory Geoffroy.

“Having a global presence on campus is a huge benefit for students, both native and international students,” Geoffroy said.

Geoffroy took a trip about four years ago to Asia to connect with alumni and to recruit future students, and traveled to Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

“There is a big number of students from there, and there is a huge alumni community,” Geoffroy said. “We went to strengthen the relationships with those alumni. Student recruitment was only a piece of that.”

It is extremely important to bring diversity to the ISU campus, and students can contribute to the experiences and education to Iowans, Geoffroy said.

“The positives from trips like these far outweigh the negatives,” Geoffroy said.

Felicia Susetyo, sophomore in pre-advertising, is an international student from Indonesia.

“There is an organization from America that comes to Indonesia [to promote U.S. colleges],” Susetyo said. “They make it so easy, you just come to an event and you can apply. Iowa State is always represented.”

Susetyo’s mother wanted her to go to a school in the United States and her aunt went to Iowa State, so she knew it would be a good choice.

“A lot of Indonesians come because they know they have good programs,” Susetyo said “It’s different. I’ve become more independent; I’m very satisfied with the program, too.”

Susetyo said her first year was challenging. She found it hard to understand the teacher and reading in English, and even making friends was a challenge.

“The culture is very different, a lot of the jokes I don’t understand because they are different or have sayings I don’t get,” Susetyo said. “But it’s getting better. I think people have a lot of stereotypes on other ethnicities, so this allows us to share our unity as people but also uniqueness.”

Susetyo is involved with the Indonesian Student Association on campus where she can share her culture and traditions with other students from Indonesia.

“Some students don’t talk to me in class, like they want to avoid me, especially when we can make study groups, that’s hard. Most of my friends are from St. Thomas Aquinas,” she said.

Susetyo also said the system here in America and Iowa State is better than back in Indonesia because there are more class options for students. Students can take electives and pick classes within their majors, whereas back home it would be challenging to take different coursework.

“America has made a big difference in my college experience. I live differently out here,” Susetyo said. “I don’t have a car, and back home everyone speaks the same language and it’s easier. But I like it here.”

Dorsett said that international students mainly base their decision on reputation and tuition and other tangible factors of a university, due to the unrealistic opportunity they have to visit the campus.

“Students look at the entire package of a university,” Dorsett said. “Look for the attractive options such as programs offered and other little facts and figures.”

In fall 2010, 3,327 international students attended Iowa State. About 52 percent of the international student population came from China.

“There is a growing middle class with an available income,” Dorsett said. “They have a strong culture of education and desire for their children to do well. So with most of the better Chinese universities getting filled, most of them come to the United States. Iowa State is very appealing to them due to the majors we offer in programs like engineering and business.”