International Student Enrollment Up for Third Consecutive Year

Buoyed by graduate students seeking American advanced degrees, international admissions increases by more than 17%.

Kent State University is celebrating a 17.7% increase in international student enrollment this year, due in large part to increases in international graduate student admissions. 

Administrators in the Office of Global Education say the numbers indicate that many international students who had postponed their education during the COVID-19 pandemic have resumed travel. 

“They are resuming their life and resuming their plans,” said Marcello Fantoni, vice president for Global Education.

Vice President for Global Education Marcello Fantoni

For the 2022 Fall Semester, Kent State welcomed 1,648 international students, marking an increase in international enrollment for three consecutive years. This semester’s total is up from 1,400 in fall 2021, and 1,309 in fall 2020. 

On the Kent Campus, the percentage increase of international students is even higher, rising by nearly 18.8 percent year over year, from 1,370 international students in 2021, to 1,627 this year.

Within those enrollment statistics, however, is an even more interesting story. Kent State’s graduate programs are becoming a true magnet for international students, Fantoni said. 

Of this year’s 1,648 international students, 60% are enrolled in graduate programs, according to Salma Benhaida, director of International Admissions and Sponsored Student Services. For new students to Kent State, the total is even higher: 78% of the 487 new international students arriving this semester – 380 students – are graduate students. 

Fantoni said the graduate students are driving international student enrollment nationally, not just at Kent State. “It’s a national trend,” he said.  

As the pandemic took its toll on economies across the globe, the resulting recessions and layoffs forced many to consider going back to school for an advanced degree. For students in many developing nations, that means looking abroad to study for an advanced degree, Fantoni explained. 

“Kent State is attractive for international students,” Fantoni said, “We have a very broad offering of good graduate programs in the right areas.” 

Benhaida said computer science remains among the strongest graduate degree programs at the university for attracting international students.  

Salma Benhaida, director of International Admissions and Sponsored Student Services for Kent State University.
While India, China and Saudi Arabia have always sent contingents of students to Kent State, Benhaida said emerging African nations also have entered the field, including Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda, with whom Kent State is forging a formal global education partnership through the University of Rwanda. 

Many African nations have burgeoning populations, but their education systems are unable to keep up with their population booms, forcing students to look beyond their home country’s borders in their quest for higher education, Fantoni said. 

Kent State’s programs in computer science and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, continue to draw healthy cohorts of students from India.  

“Kent State is very strong in this area and is also a good value at a good price,” Fantoni said. “For the first time in a long time, the number of visas issued to students from India has surpassed the number issued to students from China, which is still lagging from COVID.” 

International admissions are important for the university for several reasons. Foreign students bring new revenue, which helps to offset ongoing declines in the U.S. population of college-age students, he said. 

More importantly, though, foreign students create a more diverse university community, he said.  

“Students from more than 100 countries are here at Kent State in Northeast Ohio. That is an exceptional thing. People from all over the world, this includes the town, not only the university, which makes the entire environment in which students are immersed a much richer, cultural environment,” Fantoni said. “Not all of our students have the privilege to go abroad, but it is very likely that throughout their experience in Kent, in a dorm, a class, a program or in the cafeteria, they will be surrounded by a very diverse international environment.” 

Fantoni credits Benhaida and her team for much of their current success, for finding ways to reach international students, despite the pandemic conditions. 

“They stayed creative and innovative in finding new ways to reach out to international students,” he said.  

When her team could not travel to other countries to recruit, Benhaida said they had to get creative. 

“We had to find ways to still connect with them in a virtual space, with virtual information sessions, and we created a connection through our social media presence. We ramped up our Instagram presence. We started Flash Talk Tuesdays, where we just answered questions from prospective students. We held campus tours on Facebook live and Instagram live,” she said. “We worked with University Communications and Marketing and revamped our admissions website. It was important for students to find us in an easier, more efficient, and friendly way.” 

Fantoni said he is pleased to see how the international student market for an American education has rebounded, despite the pandemic still lingering and internal political tensions within the U.S. 

“When it comes to American higher education, the quality is stronger than the perception of the political situation,” Fantoni said. “That gives purpose to what we do. The world has an immense population of young people who want to get a good education and if we can contribute to that, that’s very honorable work that we do.” 

Learn more about Kent State's Office of Global Education.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 14, 2022 12:56 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 06:38 PM
Lisa Abraham