TAHLEQUAH — When Yuka Ito came to the United States to study, she bypassed colleges in large, internationally known cities in favor of Oklahoma’s Green Country.
Now, Northeastern State University officials hope to entice more students to make the same choice.
Ito, a student at the university’s campus in Tahlequah, came to Oklahoma from Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture. Both the university and the city provide an inviting atmosphere, with fewer distractions than a larger city, she said.
“It’s been great,” Ito said.
University officials hope to see the number of international students on campus double in the coming years. To meet that goal, university officials are recruiting students in areas where the university hasn’t had a strong presence in the past, including Africa and South America.
College and university officials generally place a high premium on drawing international students as a way to expose students to a broad range of backgrounds. But international students also generally pay full out-of-state tuition, making them an attractive option for cash-strapped universities.
During the spring 2013 semester, NSU had 228 international students, representing about 2.3 percent of the university’s student body. Those students came from 34 different countries, with the largest share coming from China, Japan and India.
A survey released in November by the online publication Inside Higher Ed suggests college officials nationwide are stepping up recruitment efforts for international students — particularly those who pay full price for their education.
College and university officials hope to see that trend continue. According to the 2012 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Admissions Directors, 35 percent of public four-year university admissions officials and 39 percent of private four-year college admissions officials strongly agreed that they planned to increase recruitment of international students.
In the same survey, 31 percent of admissions officials strongly agreed that they were very likely to increase recruitment of students who pay full price for their education.
No special fees
International students at NSU pay out-of-state tuition, which is nearly three times the rate Oklahoma residents pay. They also aren’t typically eligible for the same financial aid benefits their American counterparts receive.
But the university doesn’t levy a special fee for international students like those charged at other universities, said NSU Provost William Rugg. For example, Ohio State University charges a flat $500 per-semester fee for international students.
Most of the international students at NSU come from fairly affluent families who can afford to pay full price for their education, Rugg said. But regardless of families’ ability to pay, the university only accepts international students who have the academic and language skills to succeed, he said.
“We will only accept students that we believe will be successful,” he said.
Having more international students on campus helps broaden the perspectives of the American students on campus, Rugg said. It also exposes international students to cultures that they wouldn’t encounter in their home countries — not just American culture, he said, but also Cherokee culture.
The Cherokee Nation Headquarters is located in Tahlequah, and NSU offers Cherokee language and culture courses. Those courses are popular among international students, who typically have had limited exposure to American Indian culture, Rugg said.
University officials work to make sure international students succeed not just academically, but also socially, Rugg said. International students who come to NSU are required to live in the dorms during their first year on campus, and each international student lives with an American roommate.
“We want them to be immersed in the American culture,” Rugg said.