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ISSUE 119 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/5/2006

Interest declines

By Tim Rehborg
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 5, 2006

International students are an essential part of the St. Olaf community, for they represent "global perspective" expressed in St. Olaf’s mission statement. However, in the past few years the number of International students studying on this campus has dropped, despite recruiting efforts.

"For a school of its stature, St. Olaf has a low population of international students," said Admissions, Retention and Financial Aid Senator Katie Hellen ’08.

An international student is defined as a student who needs a visa to study in the United States. According to Luyen Phan ’92, advisor for international students, there are about 30 international students studying at St. Olaf.

"I am told that the number of international students used to be much higher about 20 years ago, numbering in the sixties or seventies," said Phan. "Many factors play into this drop in numbers."

One of the largest inhibitors for international students is money. "It is very expensive for an international student to study here, as they cannot receive federal or state funds like American students can," Phan said.

St. Olaf does offer limited need- and merit-based aid to international students, sometimes totaling 50 percent of tuition costs. However," about 90 percent of international students studying in the United States pay their tuition in full, and St. Olaf is really no exception," Phan said.

Another major limitation on international study is the effects of Sept. 11. According to Phan, the State department has not been limiting the number of student visas it issues. However, the perception exists that "student visas are hard to get in the United States … [and] there certainly are more procedures to get one now," Phan said.

Competition from universities in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia also affect admissions efforts at American schools. Governments in these countries are more prolific in their push for international students.

St. Olaf is currently working to increase the numbers of international students studying here. To address the rising expenses for international students, Phan and others are always looking for ways to increase financial aid options. Exchange programs between St. Olaf and other colleges are one option, and the work study program is also open to international students.

Phan is also active in recruiting students from other countries, traveling to various schools and making professional contact with teachers and academic advisors. Enabled by a grant from the Freeman Foundation, he is currently researching different strategies to attract more international students.

While cost and visa complications will continue to inhibit international students, Phan hopes for improvement in the future.

"We are actively trying to increase the number of international students at St. Olaf," he said. "They are essential to enhancing our community and fostering the growth of a global perspective."

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