Changing Social and Educational Climates Present New Hurdles for UWGB International Program
10/07/2019- The issuance of visas for students from across the globe looking to study here in America has dropped by as much as 40% since 2016, but the reasoning behind these falling figures isn’t entirely clear. Brent Blahnik is the Director of the Office of International Education for UW-Green Bay. He says English as a Second Language programs are generally a starting point for many foreign students before transitioning into other degree programs and universities are seeing enrollment in ESL programs steadily decline.
“It could be a lack of interest on the part of students. It’s also probably attributed somewhat to proficiency levels of students going up. Students in China, for example, have much more opportunity to take one-on-one English language instruction over the computer which decreases the need to have in-person language training physically in the United States.”
There’s also speculation the Trump Administration’s immigration policies are partly to blame, as well as the effect the current trade wars are having on students’ interest in coming to the United States. Even if an international student were to earn a degree in the US, the opportunity to gain practical experience here with temporary work authorization through their student visa is jeopardized as the wait time for that authorization to be processed has more than doubled. Blahnik says that’s another factor that could be turning prospective students off.
“It used to be about a 3-month process. We’re seeing 6, 7, 8 months, which is actually jeopardizing the student’s legal standing and so students are getting worried, ‘Hey, I’m investing all this time and money into earning a degree and I don’t have an opportunity to get that practical experience with is so important for me in starting my career.'”
Regardless of why enrollment is falling, university officials are now looking for new ways to bolster their international programs to preserve the unique benefits hosting these foreign students offers.
“International students in particular bring new perspectives to classrooms and they’ll challenge students and faculty by bringing new ways of thought or new ideas to the classroom. From a financial standpoint, international students pay the full cost of their education, plus. They pay non-resident tuition. So what that means is the university is able to collect some additional revenue through enrolling non-resident students.”
While there were some visas denied to foreign students interested in the UW-Green Bay, Mariette Campus this year, Blahnik says overall enrollment in the UWGB International Program is holding steady at this time. He says students in the program represent 27 different nationalities worldwide.