China leads foreign enrollment bump

The University boasts more international students this fall than any other time in GW’s history, internal admissions data shows.

This year, China, the Republic of Korea and India have the largest foreign populations on campus with 568, 256 and 244 students respectively, according to the International Services Office.

“We are growing generally across the board,” Director of the International Services Office Greg Leonard said. He added that the University enrolled 2,400 international students this year – up more than 100 students from last fall.

Leonard estimated 20 percent of these students were undergraduates and 70 percent were graduates, although the numbers have not been finalized, he added.

As the University expands its global reputation, foreign enrollment is increasing, he said, a credit to the international interest about GW, stemming from the commitment of University administrators to hoisting the ranks of GW’s science and engineering programs.

Leonard said in general, international students are most interested in math, science and engineering fields, although the growing prestige of the Elliott School of International Affairs is also a draw.

“I think it would be natural that with this push towards science and engineering that you would see international student enrollment rise as well,” Leonard said.

Karin Fischer, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education specializing in foreign student enrollment, said across the U.S., most international students are applying to study business and engineering.

Leonard said as the numbers continue to grow, the University will have to evaluate its foreign student enrollment cap.

“It forces programs to think about what is the very best ratio or balance of international students to regular students to prepare [all students] to the world they go into,” he said.

China and India constitute the top two international student body populations across the nation, Fischer said, explaining that the boost in Chinese international studies is natural given China’s growing economic stature.

“With the rise of a bigger middle class in China, they have more money to afford to study in the U.S.,” she said.

Enrollment of Chinese students at GW jumped 23 percent since last year.

A country’s economic clout is not the only factor in determining the number of students enrolled in foreign colleges.

“China and India are coming into their own – financially, economically and politically – and are stable. It’s natural that they are making an investment in their future,” Leonard said.

Wei Chen, a sophomore from China, has attended school in the U.S. since high school. He applied to GW for many reasons, including possibilities of a job in the financial sector, he said.

Leonard said the University’s long-standing relationship with the Republic of Korea has caused the nation to inch ahead of Indian students to boast the second-largest international student population.

Since Sept. 11, visas have been harder to obtain for international students, but American universities have been more aggressive about attracting foreign students to their campuses, Fischer said. Besides the cultural benefits of a diverse foreign student population, universities also reap the financial benefits from growing numbers of international students on American campuses.

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