As the Office of Admission finalized its enrollment numbers for 2013 on Tuesday, it revealed a two-fold increase in international student enrollment since 2009, putting Ithaca College on track to meet the goals of the IC 20/20 strategic plan.
According to enrollment figures, 638 international students applied to the college in 2013, compared to 224 students in 2009. They now make up 2 percent of the student population, compared to 1.2 percent in 2009. The IC 20/20 strategic plan calls for this enrollment to increase to 5 percent by 2020, Eric Maguire, vice president of enrollment and communication, said.
“What we viewed was that [5 percent] was a notable increase from what we’ve been historically, and provided a more substantive number that we felt would be more appropriate for our institution, and yet was a realistic and achievable goal… and would have some impact on campus at the same time,” he said.
Although this year two fewer freshman international students attended the college, there has been a steady influx of international freshmen since 2009, Maguire said.
“I am encouraged that [the rates] are both moving in a positive direction and hope to accelerate our upward trajectory in the coming years,” Maguire said.
Marisa Kelly, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said it is important to continue to foster international connections because of the contributions that international students make to the college community.
“The more we can bring international students to our campus, the more they contribute to that diversity, which is beneficial to the overall educational environment,” Kelly said.
The college has been encouraging greater enrollment through efforts like instituting the test-optional policy and early-action application last year, Maguire said.
The college has been attracting students from foreign countries mainly with its reputable academic departments.
Ben Daumas, a French exchange graduate student who is earning his master’s in communications, said this program specifically drew him to Ithaca.
“I did not know Ithaca College before, but I made some research, and I realized that the communications school was well-known in the U.S.,” Daumas said.
Maguire said the college’s partnership with Shanghai Normal University, which Tom Rochon, president of the college, announced Sept. 24, has potential to stimulate greater international recruitment, though the college is still evaluating how to accomplish this.
The college has also been engaging in talks with the National Association for College Admission Counseling over the past two to three years about new strategies for recruiting students overseas. One strategy involves hiring international agents who live in foreign countries to counsel students who want to study in the U.S. Schools pay agents per student they attract for them.
While countries like Australia and Britain rely on international agents, the American opinion remains fairly split on the issue, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
While international agents are a good resource for college recruitment in specific regions, Maguire said, the varying amount of commission the schools pay agencies could introduce biases in where the agents counsel the students to go.
Maguire said the college will decide within the academic year whether or not to use agents, keeping in mind the students’ best interest, as opposed to making decisions based on the college’s financial requirements.
“Before, we didn’t have the clarity to even consider that kind of leverage and opportunity. Now we know from NACAC what the principals are, and we can now consider what is right for us as an institution,” Maguire said.
For now, the college’s recruitment efforts include attending college fairs, visiting high schools and talking directly with students and guidance counselors. Maguire said, however, much of the real recruitment takes place from word of mouth and social media.
“Success would beget success,” he said. “Those students who are coming to campus and are having a good experience are also going back to their countries and talking to folks.”
Word of mouth is how several students, such as Sri Lanka native freshman Brandon Paul, discovered the college. He said he heard about it through his high-school and now-college peer junior Isuru Somasinghe.
Paul said he was considering schools in London and Amsterdam, but they did not offer general education classes. He said he preferred the broader liberal arts education offered by the college.
Likewise, Somasinghe said he chose the college because of the influence of friends, the liberal arts experience and a good financial aid package, in addition to its location.
Paul and Somasinghe said their private, international high school in Sri Lanka prepared them well for an American college education.
“I’ve had that solid background that has prepared me to apply abroad,” Somasinghe said. “That was always the goal.”
Several other international students said they had no experience with direct recruitment, but discovered the college through web-based searches and lists found in books. Parin Kaba, a freshman from Uganda, used the Fiske Guide in her school’s library.
Freshman Arham Muneer said he came upon the college through the recommendation of his high-school counselor in Pakistan. He said he appreciates both the college’s strong psychology and theater programs and its sense of environmental sustainability.
Upon arriving here, Muneer said the community was commendable for its efforts to include international students as much as possible, beginning with orientation.
“The Office of International Programs really did everything they could to make us feel at home — they were literally like family to us,” he said.