Penn State, Penn drawing more foreign students

Arcadia University student Jennifer Kinsella from Cherry Hill studied in London her freshman year.
Arcadia University student Jennifer Kinsella from Cherry Hill studied in London her freshman year.
Posted: November 13, 2013

Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pennsylvania are leading the local effort to attract international students, according to a report published Monday.

The number of foreign students in the United States reached an all-time high of 819,644 in 2011-12, up 7.2 percent from the year before and continuing seven consecutive years of growth, according to the Institute of International Education's annual "Open Doors" report.

Those students represent a relatively small percentage of the total U.S. student population, roughly 4 percent.

"There's just enormous demand," said Allan E. Goodman, the New York-based institute's president and chief executive officer. "Other countries just can't build enough local capacity."

Foreign students, he said, are drawn to the quality of education here.

U.S. colleges are increasingly enrolling international students to diversify their classrooms and, in many cases, bring in more tuition dollars. At Penn State, for instance, international students pay the full out-of-state price - more than $40,000 a year.

Pennsylvania was sixth in the country in international student enrollment with 37,280, up 11.6 percent from the previous year.

With 6,693 international students, Penn State continued its steady climb up the list, placing 10th among U.S. doctoral institutions. The state's flagship university receives most of its overseas students from China - mirroring a national trend - followed by India and South Korea, also the second and third most popular nationally.

Penn placed 19th - its first time in the top 20 - with 5,751 international students. The top countries sending students were China, India, South Korea, and Canada.

"That reflects our commitment to international students," said Ezekiel Emanuel, Penn's first vice provost for global initiatives. "It also reflects our commitment to global initiatives more generally. We now have a strategic plan, and we're now systematically approaching these issues."

Nationally, the most popular field of study for foreign students was business and management, followed by engineering, then math and computer science.

The report also highlighted colleges that are leaders in study-abroad opportunities for students. More than 283,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2011-12, up 3 percent from the previous year.

Arcadia University in Glenside placed first in the country among master's degree-granting institutions in the percentage of study-abroad experiences it offers to its 2,400 undergraduates.

It's a distinction the university has held for five of the last six years, according to the institute.

The institute calculates the percentage by dividing the number of students who studied abroad by the number of graduating seniors. Arcadia had a percentage of 138 - 646 students studied abroad, while the graduating class was 468.

Arcadia even sends freshmen abroad, a relative rarity, according to Goodman.

That was one of the reasons that Jennifer Kinsella of Cherry Hill chose the school. Kinsella, an international studies major at Arcadia, spent the second semester of her freshman year in London. For one of her classes, she studied British plays.

"I thought it was nice I'd be able to jump right in there," said Kinsella, 19, now a sophomore and already contemplating her next study-abroad experience, possibly in Paris. "It was great exposure to be able to go abroad in my first year of college."

Arcadia students study in 140 programs in 18 countries, said Nicolette DeVille Christensen, university president. The United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy are the most popular destinations.

"At Arcadia, we start talking to students the minute they come to campus," Christensen said. "Our campus is internationalized. Our curriculum is internationalized."

Arcadia does not require students to study abroad, but, rather, that they have a global education experience.

Goodman said more colleges should follow Arcadia's lead. Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. students study abroad, the institute found. Schools should consider requiring all freshmen to have a passport, Goodman said.

"If you entered as a freshman and knew you had to have a passport, then you'd also be thinking about how to use it," he said.

Bryn Mawr College also placed prominently, both for study abroad and international student enrollment.

"We are delighted," said Susan Buck Sutton, senior adviser for international initiatives. "The college has had a commitment to diversifying the student experience here for some time."

Bryn Mawr was 11th in the country in international enrollment among bachelor's degree-granting colleges. One of every four undergraduates is international, Sutton said. Bryn Mawr offers financial aid to international students.

In study abroad, Bryn Mawr placed 25th. To encourage international studies, the college has created summer opportunities. It also offers "360-degree courses," in which students take three courses linked by subject and taught by the same group of professors.

This semester, students studied the concept of "mindfulness" in a chemistry course, a psychology course, and a religious studies course. The professors and students went to Japan last month as a group, spent time in monasteries, and learned about meditation.

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