As we evaluate the university-wide enrollment challenges, I am encouraged by the work of our international programs team led by Jim Baker and Brad Bodenhausen.
Between 2011 and 2016, our international enrollment grew from 1,304 to 1,673. This is an astounding 28.3% increase over a five-year period.
By fall of 2017, international concerns arose and the environment for recruiting students in other countries had changed. Rightly or wrongly, the United States developed a reputation in many countries of being unsafe and unwelcoming to immigrants.
The impact at Missouri State — like other universities throughout the country — was a 206 student (12.3%) decline in international enrollment between 2016 and 2018.
Our international team could have blamed the environmental shift and given up hope. Most other universities did.
Instead, our team doubled their efforts. They explored new countries and new markets. I recently joined them on trips to Bolivia and China to execute agreements and build relationships with new and old partner universities. These kind of trips are difficult, and they require a lot of work. But bending the enrollment curve is labor intensive.
Our international staff also collaborated with academic departments to develop program pathways that allow students to stay in their home countries for part of their education. This was a novel concept that had been dismissed as unworkable for many years. But our academic leaders worked hard and re-approached the issue with an open mind.
Our international enrollment increased by 151 this fall, nearly eliminating the losses we sustained over the past two years. Our hard work and creative thinking paid off.
Looking to the future
The success in our international enrollment is a model for what we must do here at home.
The environment in the United States has changed. Fewer students are graduating from high school each year. Fewer students are going to community college, making transfer recruitment more difficult. Demographics are shifting.
We cannot rest on our laurels or blame the changes in the world around us.
If we double our efforts and reinvent the way we work to recruit and retain students, we will have a similar story to tell on our domestic enrollment as well.
Thanks for all you do for Missouri State!