International Student Services budget not optimal

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With tools such as recruitment trips and digital marketing, a $50,000 annual budget doesn’t quite make the cut in order for International Student Services to do what they need to do.

A main aspect of International Student Services is recruiting students from other countries, and in order to do that ISS will foster recruitment trips, use digital marketing for more expensive countries like Japan, and build relationships with agents or liaisons within those countries ISS wants to recruit students from.

Director of ISS Catherine Odera said its budget, which comes from the university, needs to be in the “ball park” of $100,000 to $150,000.

The strategic plan calls for an increase of international students by 5 percent of the student body by 2020,” Odera said. “That means our numbers will move from 180 to 500 (students) in two years, which is very rapid…it’s a very aggressive goal.”

Recruitment trips involve an ISS staff member traveling to a country, like China, where there are partnerships already created, Odera said. She said those traveling for these trips will meet and talk to local high school counselors and parents of potential students. Oftentimes, they will also present in recruitment fairs, where universities from all over the world will come and speak to potential students.

Odera said because of ISS’s budget, recruiters won’t go on more than two trips a year, and depending on the country or region, a recruitment trip can sometimes cost up to $2,000. That includes air tickets, food, lodging, and any internal fees from traveling place to place.

ISS must also go through a vetting process with the vice president and business services, and President Richard “Biff” Williams must sign off in order for a trip to happen.

“Before a trip is decided, we’ve done market research,” Odera said. “My big thing that I refuse to do is just going. A lot of questions go into it.”

Odera said the top five countries international students come from are Nigeria, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Colombia. However, according to data obtained from Dixie State University’s institutional research office, headcount from countries like China and Hong Kong has dropped since fall 2013. According to the data, 52 students came from China in fall 2013 and that number dropped down to 19 in fall 2017. In fall 2013, 21 students came from Hong Kong and in fall 2017 that number dropped to 10.

“[Institutional research] doesn’t track where we recruit from,” Andrea Brown, director of institutional research, wrote in an email. “My office only tracks where students come from (home country) once they are enrolled at DSU.”

As for the total number of international students present on campus, according to the data provided to the Dixie Sun, the number has dropped from 182 in fall 2013 to 163 in fall 2017.

Odera said tracking how many international students ISS recruits from different countries is difficult because recruiting abroad takes time. Odera gave an example and said if ISS was hoping to get eight students from Kenya, they have to contend with the fact that not all those eight students would get approved for U.S. Visas.

“We always have to factor in things such as we’re competing with other universities that may have given [students] admission papers as well,” Odera said. “Our big issue is the embassy. If they don’t get that Visa, it doesn’t matter how many admission papers we have sent out.”

Because ISS can’t travel to every country to recruit, ISS relies on digital marketing as well. One way ISS uses digital marketing is by having webinars with potential students by pairing them up with current international students at DSU.

For current international students, having resources on campus is important. Scott Miles, assistant professor of English as a Second Language, said besides ISS, international students have resources such as the Multicultural and Inclusion Center, the Writing Center and SHELL tutors, which stands for Students Helping English Language Learners. SHELL tutors are students from the education department who are getting their major with an ESL endorsement.

“So our students from the education department…are pretty much open for any student who wants to come in and practice English or ask questions,” Miles said. 

Although there aren’t any requirements for international students to attend DSU, Miles said they will give international student placement tests to see if they need to be in ESL courses. 

Another resource or aspect that is important for international students, Odera said, is student life and getting involved on campus. 

“We work very hard to get international students here; it’s not enough that they just go to the classroom, work and home,” Odera said. 

To learn more about ISS and its mission, students can visit international.dixie.edu.