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Local Universities Try To Boost International Enrollment

Stricter visa requirements are requiring college and university admissions offices to be more creative to boost enrollment.

International student enrollment is flat at some to local colleges and universities because of stricter visa requirements. Instead of coming to the U.S., foreign students are looking to Canada, Great Britain and Australia, and that has local schools getting creative to get their numbers back up.

By targeting students from Nepal, Vietnam and sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Kentucky University may see a slight increase in the number of foreign students this fall. Up until that point it had been a decrease.

Executive Director of The Center for Global Engagement and International Affairs at NKU Francois LeRoy says the decline in tuition revenue was considerable after a dramatic decrease in the number of Indian and Saudi students.

"These are students who pay full tuition and out of state tuition, and I'm talking here mostly about the Saudis," he says. "It's also been detrimental to the local economy because they were renting apartments. They were buying cars. They were living here in our community."

LeRoy says he's been more intentional in his recruitment over the past three to four years. "We're rebuilding our international student population by diversifying our recruitment efforts."

Ron Cushing, director of International Services at the University of Cincinnati, says the perception is the U.S. no longer wants you if you aren't a citizen.

"That perception obviously puts us in greater competition with other countries who are actively trying to make their country more appealing to international students."

UC has 3,500 international students enrolled, 1,200 recent graduates under optional practical training (OPT), and 1,000 non-students.

"It's just a tough environment right now," Cushing says. "We know we are competing against institutions worldwide now for priority with these individuals."

Another concern is hiring faculty and other researchers. Cushing says, "We want to make sure we are getting the best and the brightest."

The National Science Board says the number of international graduate students coming into the U.S. fell 6 percent in the 2016-17 school year. The South China Morning Post reports the drop was concentrated in computer science and engineering programs.

A recent Purdue University survey finds 42 percent of Chinese international students said their impressions of the U.S. had become more negative.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.