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Recruiting Intelligence

Does the Midwest stand a chance in international student enrollment?

Urban areas on the East and West Coasts, (Boston, New York, LA, Seattle) seem to attract international students.  What about the rest of the country?  Do middle-of-the-country universities participate in the U.S. long-term growth of international enrollment trends?

We looked at the state of Ohio. And indeed, universities with a long-term vision, focus and plans for international enrollment show growth trends similar to their competition on the coasts.

We analyzed the open doors data for long-term trends across the U.S. and for specific states.  We are using the IIE open door data from 2009–2012 for this analysis. For this article, we are focusing on the following questions:

  • How did international student enrollment develop during the past four years in Ohio? 
  • Which Ohio universities are successful in recruiting international students during the past four years?
  • How do the enrollment results differ from the rest of the country and in particular the coastal regions?
  • Do we see a pattern indicating which types of institutions are successful?

OH Top 20 Incremental number of students resized 600

Ohio universities grew their international student enrollment on average twice as fast as California or New York-based universities during the past four years. Ohio's top 20 universities, in terms of international students, recorded more than 60 percent weighted average growth over the past four years. This higher growth rate is driven by a relatively smaller base of international students four years ago and by the composition of the universities with a number of mid-sized and large public universities focusing on international student enrollment.

Let's look at a specific example: Kent State University enrolled 1,000 international students during the past four years (shown in Graph 1), doubling its total international student body to almost 2,000 students (Graph 2). The only University in Ohio in the top 20 universities with large international student populations recording a signficant decline from 2009 to 2012 was the University of Findley (649 fewer international students according to the IIE survey).

It's important to keep in mind that this analysis does not give sufficient credit to the successes and work of small and mid-sized colleges since we are looking at the top 20 universities by growth and size of international enrollment. Consider another example: John Carroll University, which grew its international enrollment by almost 100 percent from 2009 to 2012, increasing enrollment by 29 students.

This analysis raises another important aspect of international student enrollment: Universities increase their international student enrollment through different channels and with multiple objectives. While international student exchanges clearly contribute to school diversity and internationalization, they do not contribute to higher average tuition revenue. At the same time, increased tuition revenue is an important motivation for universities seeking to increase international student enrollment beyond exchanges. 

The IIE data we analyzed do not distiguish between the channels and the derived tuition revenue. 


 Graph 2 

 OH Top 20 Comparison between Incremental and Total Students resized 600


If you are interested in the picture of the whole USA, the Chronicle of Higher Education prepared an excellent interactive Chart "Where the International Students are."

Bottomline: Ohio universities have proven to be very competitive and successful with the coastal regions by maintaining a focus and institutional commitment. It starts at the top and requires a multi-year financial commitment to making the message and outreach effective. Check out Intead Insights for the analysis of the national trends.

If you are data nerds, as we are, please find the detailed figures in Table 1 and 2 below. 


Table 1 (Data for Chart 1) 

OH GROWTHRATE resized 600


Table 2 (Data for Graph 2) 


OH totalstudents2012 resized 600