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Michigan universities throw a welcome mat to attract foreign students

Therefore, Michigan's public universities continue to send representatives to countries around the world, trying to find students seeking a college degree American.

Schools need the bet to pay. With many Michigan universities struggling financially, getting more foreign students on campus, and the tuition dollars they bring with them to the college coffers, it's considered a way to avoid financial problems.

But the bet is not a guaranteed winner: the registration of foreign students in universities and colleges in the US. UU It fell almost 7 percent in 2017-18 compared to the previous year, according to the Institute for International Education. Among the reasons for the fall? Stricter immigration policies of the Trump administration, says the report.

Is the bet working for the universities of Michigan? That depends on the school.

Four universities: the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan Dearborn, the State University of Michigan and the Technological University of Michigan have more than 8 percent of their students coming from abroad, according to the data published this fall by the Senate Fiscal of the State Agency. In general, the state has increased by about 1,000 foreign students as of 2013, but has dropped by about 2,000 foreign students compared to 2015.

What really matters are the students, thanks to the large number of students in the state. Nine of the 15 public universities in Michigan enroll fewer students than five years ago. And there is a smaller and smaller group of Michigan students to draw. The number of high school graduates in the state has dropped by 11 percent in the last decade, and demographers warn that the number of high school graduates is likely to continue to decline in the next decade.

Demographers say the decline is largely due to the slowdown in birth rates and a decade of people leaving the state. In essence, there are simply fewer children in K-12 schools, which means fewer college students.

Michigan colleges charge foreign students more for attending school than for students in the state. However, scholarships are often available in countries of origin to attend school. Michigan schools also have partnerships with universities in foreign countries, which helps direct prospective students to Michigan.

Among the launches for foreign students is the opportunity, not only for an American education, but to stay in the United States after graduating for a job, often with a US company with interests abroad who are looking for comfortable students in a variety of ways. situations.

That's what prompted Fatima Winston, 27, of Grand Rapids, to Kalamazoo to go to Western Michigan University from her home in Saudi Arabia.

"I had cousins ​​who had gone (to Western) and my parents wanted me to get a university degree in the United States," he said. "I wanted an opportunity to come, get an education and get a job here"

That's what happened. He graduated, got a job at an accounting firm near Grand Rapids and got married.

"At the beginning it was difficult to decide to come," he said. "But it really helped that so many other people (from Saudi Arabia) had already been in. It was not so bad to come here as if I had gone to a place where there was no one from my country, that was a great selling point for that. I could use my title to get a job. "

The decline in enrollment has led to financial problems at Michigan's universities. In Eastern Michigan, around 100 positions have been reduced in the last three years. In downtown Michigan, about 50 positions have been trimmed.

"Our decade-long record and trajectory of enrollment is a major concern," said Central Michigan President Robert Davies, speaking on Thursday at the school board meeting, according to a written copy. "We will expand our reach, especially in the metropolitan area of ​​Detroit, Grand Rapids, Chicago and other state and international target markets, the road will not be easy, the recovery from a decade of decline will not happen overnight."

But there are success stories in attracting foreign students, and not just in the largest universities.

"We're really trying to diversify our enrollment," said Jenna Briggs, director of advanced studies and services for international students at Saginaw Valley State University, noting that the school has students from 57 countries. "We never want to have all of our eggs in our basket, not only in terms of registration but also of diversity."

So, where do the students come from?

It's not hard to walk around Ann Arbor, Houghton or East Lansing and meet a student from a different country

Drawn by world-class reputations In several fields, approximately 15 percent of the student body in each school comes from abroad. Among the most popular careers: health care, engineering and information technology.

But schools like Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw are also attracting students, and not necessarily from a country that might first come to mind.

According to the latest figures from the state, approximately 70 percent of the state's foreign students come from five countries.

Leading the way are students from China, who represent 37 percent of the state's foreign students. Almost half of all Chinese students go to the state of Michigan, and another 35 percent are studying at U-M in Ann Arbor.

Li Chen was on campus on Friday to meet with a family member who is currently going to the U-M. Chen arrived at the UM of China and graduated three years ago.

"I really wanted to leave China to study," said Chen, 28, of Novi. "Many of my friends who grew up were out of China to go to (the university)." It was not very unusual. "

Attended a university fair, met with a UM representative and made his decision.


"Actually, I was never here until I was a student," he said. "I used (Internet) to look around the campus, it was fun and I learned a lot"

Students from India are the next largest group, and the only nation among the five most popular countries to increase their number in the last year. About 16 percent of the state's foreign students come from India, of which 22 percent go to the U-M and 17 percent to the state of Wayne.

The other three countries are Saudi Arabia, Canada and South Korea. Enrollment in Canada has been constant for several years, and Wayne State has obtained a little more than a third of all Canadian students. The University of Michigan receives most of the South Korean students.

And for the students of Saudi Arabia? They go to smaller schools.

Where do Saudi students go?

When recruiters from Western Michigan and Saginaw Valley land in Saudi Arabia, they find a receptive audience

This is because students from the Middle East East have been coming to Saginaw and Kalamazoo for years, thanks to partnerships between the Saudi government and universities.

The Saudi government's cultural mission has scholarships that take Saudi students to American universities and in Michigan, no more than Western and Saginaw Valley. About 27 percent of all Saudi students in Michigan go to Western, while about 15 percent go to Saginaw Valley.

"We have a long-standing relationship with the Saudi government," said Paulo Zagalo-Melo, associate director of the Haenicke Institute for Global Education in western Michigan. "We have second-generation students from Saudi Arabia on campus, they come because their parents are alumni and their dream has been for their children to come to the United States and study here just like them."

And if his parents did not come to Western, another family member or friend could have done it.

"Word of mouth is one of our key forms of recruitment," said Zagalo-Melo.

There is an Islamic Center near the campus and students know they can get halal meat and other foods near the campus.

And there is the Michigan tie, where Arabic is the third most spoken language.

"They feel comfortable here," Zagalo-Melo said. "Confidence relationships are built over time and word of mouth."

The situation is very similar in Saginaw Valley, said Briggs of Saginaw Valley. Its release to the students? A very affordable price for a good grade. Students increasingly study health care, engineering and computer science.

Once they arrive on campus, the school helps them adapt. The police department teaches them about driving in America. Food service workers work with them to teach cooking to those who do not know how to cook.

Then the students go home to get good jobs, go to graduate school or stay in the United States with good jobs. And the reputation grows, which facilitates their recruitment.

"It's word of mouth that helps us," said Briggs. "The students know that they will go to (a school) where the professors know them and they will receive a great education"

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