Universities travel abroad to lure students to Miami
By Robert Grattan
Despite stiffer international competition for foreign students, Miami's universities have seen applicants from abroad increase and plan to bring even more international students to their local campuses.
Both Florida International University and the University of Miami are after the diversity and international connections that international students bring.
The universities are luring foreigners by sending admissions teams abroad, creating programs designed to ease the transition to the US and promoting Miami's international image.
Foreign students "are an important part of our campus," said Douglas Wartzok, provost and executive vice president of FIU. "About 7% of our students are international students."
FIU enrolled 44,010 students in 2010, about 3,000 from abroad.
As part of a goal to increase total student enrollment by 2,000 each year, FIU intends to grow international enrollment.
It's going from "3,000 international students to about 4,500 students," Mr. Wartzok said. "It's a fairly significant growth."
Foreign enrollment is on the rise at UM as well, said Mark G. Reid, executive director of international admissions.
"We've seen rapid increase in our applications and enrollment from China," he said, as well as Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and India.
Mr. Reid cited UM's high ranking, Miami's high-profile business community and international financiers, the city's presence in the global market and, of course, the South Florida climate as reasons for the uptick in international applications.
"After 9/11, the [application] numbers dropped off dramatically," he said, "and since then they have been slowly picking up."
FIU, which initially cut back foreign recruitment after 9/11, has seen international applications climb from about 4,500 to around 6,000 a year over the past five years, Mr. Wartzok said.
"It's easier for students to get the F-1 visa than it had been," he explained.
The F-1 Student Visa was issued to 385,210 international students in 2010, compared to 234,322 in 2002, according to the State Department's website.
To attract even more foreign students, FIU is to embark on admissions information trips around the world.
"As we try to grow our international numbers we will be going on recruitment visits to China, India, Brazil and Argentina," Mr. Wartzok said.
Most of FIU's foreign applicants find out about the university through online searches, he noted.
The University of Miami has admissions trips planned to South Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Mr. Reid said.
"We really try to cover the globe with the staff and the budget we have," he added. "We try to go to the main cities around the world."
To help the diverse group of recruited students adapt to life at an American college, UM offers an intensive English program, and courses that help students adjust to academia in the US.
International students "come from a different learning style," Mr. Reid said. "They aren't as used to some of the more critical thinking that is encouraged in the US."
At FIU, international students pay about $18,000, the same tuition as out-of-state students and around three times more than in-state students, Mr. Wartzok said.
UM, a private university, charges all students the same rate, $49,726 to $56,647 for new freshmen, according to its website.
But both Mr. Reid and Mr. Wartzok agree that international students bring more than their tuition payments to the US.
"In a business classroom, where you are talking about global economies, if you have students from Asia and Europe they see things in very different ways," Mr. Reid said. "Most American students wouldn't hear that unless they lived abroad."
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