Relatively Few International Students Enroll At UC Berkeley

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Analysis: Berkeley's international student enrollment

Assistant University News Editor Zach EJ Williams talks to reporter Chris Carrassi about a survey recently published ranking American universities by the number of international students enrolled.

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While efforts are under way within the UC system to increase non-resident student enrollment, UC Berkeley will need a significant increase in the size of its international student population to match other American institutions, according to a recent survey.

The campus ranked 26th among American university campuses with 3,506 international students-9.9 percent of its student body-in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, according to The Institute of International Education, which based the survey off 2008-09 academic year data.

The University of Southern

California topped the survey with 7,482 international students-14 percent of its student body.

The ranking comes as UC Berkeley begins to increase its nonresident student population as part of a UC systemwide effort to combat an $813 million cumulative cut in state funding in fiscal years 2008-09 and 2009-10. This year, the campus year admitted 300 more international students than it did last year, a 10.6 percent increase.

Campus officials have said UC Berkeley plans to generate an extra $60 million in additional revenue each year by increasing nonresident students to 20 percent of the total undergraduate population.

Ivor Emmanuel, director of the UC Berkeley International Office, said the campus trails behind others due to its focus on resident admissions.

"USC is a private institution so they can admit as many (international students) as they want," he said. "But here at UC, and Berkeley specifically, we have to be more mindful of the demand to enroll (residents)."

USC spokesperson James Grant said the top ranking was no accident for the private university, which has been able to provide a "comprehensive financial aid program" and awards to international students.

"By design, we have over the years tried to attract the best and brightest students across the US and around the world," Grant said. "This is part of our strategy to be a global university."

Grant said USC has engaged in "aggressive recruitment" in Japan and China, which are top originating countries for international students in California, according to the survey.

Still, UC Berkeley carries a lot of prestige abroad, especially in Asia, according to Viola Tang, an ASUC senator and Hong Kong native.

But Tang said the campus offers only modest financial support for international students in the form of small grants and loans. International students are also excluded from federal and state government financial aid programs.

While he could account for the difference in enrollment at private schools, Emmanuel could only speculate as to why UCLA's international student enrollment, which is 14.6 percent of its student body, exceeds UC Berkeley's by nearly 2,000 students.

He suggested it may be due to UCLA's larger overall student population and UC Berkeley's emphasis on domestic enrollment, something Emmanuel said is set to change.

"Within a year or two, our numbers (of international students) will increase dramatically," he said.

However, the difference may also be related to how individual campuses define an international student for the purposes of the survey, which includes any student enrolled at an American university who is not a U.S. citizen, an immigrant or a refugee, and may include recent graduates with work visas.

On its Web site, UCLA reports about 2,900 international students enrolled, about 2,500 fewer than were reported in the survey.

Many participating schools in the survey, including most of the top 10, reported international enrollment figures that were about 1,000 more than they reported on their Web sites.

Katie Majewski, a data management specialist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said the discrepancy may be due to international students who recently graduated but are participating in the national Optional Practical Training work program.

The Urbana-Champaign campus reported 6,570 international students to the survey, but only 5,933 on its Web site for 2008-09. Majewski said the roughly 700 students enrolled in the work program may account for the difference.

Despite the inconsistencies, Patricia Chow, editor of the survey report, reaffirmed the validity of the data, which are self-reported by participating schools.

"Internal data checks at the schools are in place, I assume," she said in an e-mail. "But since our overall total is off from (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which tracks the total number of international students in the U.S.) by only one to two percent, what the schools are reporting seems to be accurate."

Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that a $813 million cut in state funding to the university was not cumulative for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years.


Contact Chris Carrassi at [email protected]

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