Evaluation of Castleton University’s International Student Program

1796 words (7 pages) Essay in Education

18/05/20 Education Reference this

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Background Information

I chose to look into the international student program at Castleton University.  I have taken classes at Castleton in the past, specifically Spanish classes, but was still unfamiliar with its level of internationalization and its efforts to reach into the internationalization market. After reading in our class about the phases of internationalization, and how other schools in the US are becoming more internationalized, I was curious to see how my local university measured up to the others. Located in Castleton, Vermont, Castleton is considered Vermont’s first college and the 18th oldest in the United States. Today the institution is comprised of 2,000 students. Its 12 to 1 student to faculty ratio and offering of over 75 programs of study and 30 minors falls in line with Castleton University’s mission to “understand the Castleton Way, which guides the university in all its endeavors, is to engage in respectful relationships in an inclusive, student-centered environment; to appreciate our learned and compassionate faculty and dedicated and caring staff; to strive to learn, use, and teach sustainable environmental practices; and to participate in strong community partnerships.  Castleton’s transformational education emphasizes undergraduate liberal arts and professional studies while also offering graduate programs.  The University prepares its diverse students for relevant and meaningful careers in a global economy, advanced academic pursuits, and reasonable citizenship.”  Recently, U.S. News and World Report ranked Castleton the #2 College in Vermont (E. Machia, personal communication, September 30, 2019).  According to the NAFSA International Students Economic Value Tool, Castleton ranks 6th in the state and  receives $2.0 million dollars in contributions, supporting 11 jobs during the 2017-2018 academic year (NAFSA.org/economicvalue). 

  Responses to Challenges

 Castleton does not employ a Senior International Officer, therefore I met with the Admission’s Office International Student Liaison, Erika Machia.  Erika works closely with international students from the time they first show interest in coming to Castleton, throughout their application and visa process, and during their time as a student.  Castleton currently has 65 international students enrolled.  They do not offer financial aid to international students, and scholarships are difficult to attain, therefore international students are largely responsible to pay $46,000 a year for enrollment. Financial and political challenges loom for this small university in terms of how to best recruit international students.  The institution has not changed much about its recruitment efforts in the past few years and there is no specific plan for increasing the number of international students on campus in the coming years.   Personal emails are continuously returned to ensure all potential applicants feel important and the general desire is that the university would like to see the same number or an increase, i.e. if ten students graduate or leave school, ten more students would be the goal to enroll (E. Machia, personal communication, 9/30/2019). 

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The top 3 countries where Castleton sees the most international students have not changed much in the past ten years, they are: Canada, China and Sweden (Machia). Canadian students largely come as a result of joining the hockey program, Swedish students for participation on the ski team and Chinese students for the quality of educational programs for the money.  One of the challenges potential international students face is the money necessary to attend.  In the past, Castleton has not offered any financial aid for international students.  Now however, some financial aid from sending countries or sponsoring international businesses is available for worthy students, as well as scholarships which they can apply for to help (Machia). Because of the financial difficulties, the university has seen an increase in the number of students attending a semester or one-year of study and returning to study in their home country (Machia).  One of Casteleton’s largest international student markets is in Canada.  Because of recent economic factors, there has been a slow decline in those students (Machia).  The strength of the U.S dollar makes for good travel for Americans to Canada, but according to Machia, not for Canadians traveling to the United States because of the current currency exchange rate.  In order to combat this decrease in student applications, Castleton distributes detailed marketing pamphlets to Canadian schools complete with important statistics about the university such as location, distance to popular locations such as New York City and Boston and educational programs and initiatives offered.  University Admissions employees travel to countries, such as Japan, Sweden and most recently Germany to spread the word about why perspective students should choose Castleton in the hopes of driving up interest in international student enrollment and building recruitment relationships. This personal approach has seemed to be helpful in the past, with students from Sweden especially, and the university will continue to employ this approach in the future.  Castleton has also built relationships with recruitment companies, such as BlueChip for the past 8 years which reaches Scandanavian countries, purchases name lists from ToEFL test takers to send information to prospective students and receives “Global U” students, which consist high scholars from other countries who come to study at the university for one semester.  Sport coaches and former students also act as important “recruiters” for future international students.

Personal Critical Analysis

Globalization is an inevitable conclusion as the world becomes smaller and more inclusionary than ever before.  The growth of international programs and internet based classes, have made classrooms global by design. My first take-away from the project and the direction of Castleton’s international education initiatives is my surprise that there is no definitive plan for growth.  To enact a more concrete plan and increase in the number of international higher education students the school should employed a Senior International Officer.  The job of an SIO is to be both, “an agent of the administration and an agent of change” (Deardorff and Charles, 2018). In today’s electronic world, it is increasingly important to get your message out to as many people as possible in the global market about all that your campus has to offer.  An experienced SIO can design web marketing, form more group partnerships for recruitment in other countries not yet explored by the school and design a newsletters and press bulletins to help spread the message that Castleton is pushing toward being a more internationalized university, therefore attracting more interested applicants.  The SIO is also responsible for crafting meetings on campus comprised of faculty, campus organizations, teachers, alumni and town leaders to generate positive results such as employment opportunities, develop support for internationalization initiatives and provide a community-type environment, while keeping the university leadership fully informed.  As Deardorff and Charles say, this will require “dedicated funding and staff positions” (Deardorff and Charles, 2018), however, if the current school president is in favor of increased internationalization, as he has indicated he is in the past (E. Machia, personal communication 9/30/2019), he should hire a qualified liaison to handle the increased work and spearhead the growth of the program into the future.

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My second take-away is that while international students’ enrollment revenue is important to help fill funding gaps and support teaching positions, it is also important to keep in mind the amount they are being asked to contribute and possibly add some sort of financial aid to drive up numbers in the international market, and in turn the economy of the area in general.  A Vermont resident pays roughly $23,000 a year in tuition, a non-resident pays roughly $40,000, however, international students are asked to pay $46,000 a year with no financial aid.  Scholarships are possible, but in that case they are vying for the same scholarship money as roughly 2,000 other applicants.  This could be seen as a deterrent for potential international students, or rather a reason to enroll for a one-year experience and return to their home country where they will pay significantly less for a degree, resulting in an even larger shortfall of revenue for the university.  For example, in Ireland, it was found that, “Visits by parents and family to Irish based international students will also make a contribution to the economy as a result of their spending in Ireland.” (Kennedy, 2018). This indirect loss would contribute to the money lost by the university directly from a loss of international students’ tuition costs. The end goal, of course, being that these students like the ones I spoke of in Irish universities which contributed 119.5 million Euros in “non-tuition fee expenditure, including accommodation, substance and direct course costs” (Kennedy, 2018), would stay in the area after graduation and continue to make successful and productive contributions to the economy. 

The third take away that I had for the direction of the program, is the fact that current political and economic factors have made it difficult to boost the global footprint of the university.  According to my interviewee, the current Administration’s policies have made recruiting from African countries nearly impossible.  The college currently has no African international education students, except for those who are naturalized citizens, and in fact a student from Africa went home during a break and was not allowed entry back into the country to continue their education. Like the current situation in Canada, some of our decisions and plans for international students and Canadian students abroad, lay at the hands of political leaders.  Currently, a new initiative is in place which has been lobbied for for years, whereby $95 million dollars will be set aside to send 11,000 Canadians abroad for the next five years (Civinini, 2019). The initiative stakeholders will be tasked to improve visa processes and fund a digital advertising campaign (Civinini, 2018), both of which would also greatly benefit Castleton’s efforts to recruit from different geographical locations.  In October, however, Canada will see elections and even though they have a current international students plan in place, a more conservative government will make it extremely difficult. Although some are optimistic about the future, some believe that, “a change of hands as a result of the election may be a threat to the strategy” (Civinini, 2019).  In order for Castleton to expand its global reach, it will need to explore new, non-traditional recruitment regions.

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