Despite a record high level in international enrollment nationwide, Jacksonville State University has seen a decline in international enrollment over the last five years.
In the United States, enrollment of international students in institutes of higher education reached 819,644 in 2012, which is the largest international enrollment the U.S. has ever seen. But while international enrollment booms nationwide, JSU international student enrollment has dropped from 247 in 2008 to 204 in 2013.
Director of JSU’s International Program Dr. John Ketterer said, “Most of the variants between the national average and the JSU average can be accounted for by an increase in enrollment in programs that we don’t have. I would say that a comparison of these averages require some analysis.”
Ketterer said that some of the most popular subjects for study for international students are medical, engineering, and graduate level programs that are not offered at JSU.
“Here in the state, [for] the universities with medical programs and engineering programs, which are very popular in the third world, it’s been easier for them to recruit in Asia and Africa and the third world because the third world countries and the lesser-developed countries are really after engineering, medicine and graduate sciences,” said Ketterer.
“JSU as a regional university does not offer all of those programs, and therefore, we can’t recruit an entire niche of students. That’s a major problem, but given the parameters that we work under, I think we’re doing an excellent job.”
Without these programs, JSU needs to find other ways to attract international students to enroll at the University.
“We need to sell the things that we do have better and we have to identify the population that will respond to us,” said Ketterer. “The more aggressively you market your program in a positive way, the better you do in admissions.”
JSU has an initiative to increase international enrollment. Plans to encourage international enrollment are included as strategy number eight in the 2011-2016 Strategic Plan for JSU, which can be found on the university’s website.
“The purpose of this strategy is to increase international students at JSU, foster curricular innovations and expand international collaboration,” states the plan. “With a long history of international exchange programs, JSU is well-positioned to build on current efforts to attract international students, provide English language support, expand study abroad opportunities for JSU students and faculty, and increase cultural exchange for the JSU community and its international partners.”
JSU plans to incorporate existing programs currently working to increase the enrollment of international students and to assist them while they are studying at the university in their strategy to increase international enrollment. These programs include the Fulbright scholarship program, exchange programs such as the Wuhan Scholars program, the International House at JSU, and the English Language Institute administered by the College of Arts and Sciences at JSU.
Ketterer states that growing an international program at a university comes in three stages, with enrolling international students as stage one and encouraging university students to study abroad as stage two.
“We’re now in stage three,” said Ketterer. “It’s a time of experimentation. People are experimenting with all kinds of models: Joint Degree Programs [and] Professorial exchange and training programs. The other factor in stage three is the playing field is very level. It used to be if you were in near Asia or far Asia, your goal was to study in the United States. In the English-speaking world, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. have really stepped up.”
JSU has also worked to provide study abroad programs at JSU. Current programs offered include a Political Science course in Rome, Italy and a British Studies program offered through the University of Southern Mississippi. Study abroad programs have been offered in the past through the Biology, History, and English departments.
“Universities that were ahead of us fifteen years ago are still ahead of us in this next phase. I think that’s probably where JSU is lagging behind,” said Ketterer. “Although, I wouldn’t say we’re lagging that far behind.”
The top programs for international students at JSU are nursing, pre-business, and biology. Ketterer said that other growing programs for international students are the computer science and emergency management programs offered at JSU.
Ketterer said, “We want them to stay here with us once they’re educated to that high level, because their high level of education, particularly in those very necessary areas for us will bring the level of the entire country up.”