Pre-college program to host foreigners

The University is looking to establish a pre-college program to bring foreign students to the Virginia Science and Technology Campus in order to help them brush up on their English and prepare for a potential academic future in the U.S.

The program, still in the early planning stages, would launch as the University and colleges nationwide see sharp rises in the number of foreign students – some of whom would need training in English before enrolling in American universities.

The pre-college program is one of six initiatives announced Sept. 4 by the Innovation Task Force, which pitches ideas to add revenue and cut costs for the University. It will be headed by dean of the Virginia campus Ali Eskandarian.

Some details – like where GW would house the students – are still up in the air because the program’s launch is likely years away, ITF co-chair Craig Linebaugh said. But classes would take place at the Ashburn, Va. campus to help GW meet the city-regulated enrollment cap that limits the number of full-time students at the Foggy Bottom Campus, forcing the University to use online programs and satellite campuses to boost tuition revenues.

“The international gap year would allow students to spend a year getting ready to really dive into academic programs in the States, whether it be on a language basis or cultural basis,” Linebaugh said. “It would really help them prepare for rigorous academic pursuits.”

David Lawlor, ITF co-chair and senior associate vice president for finance, said the program is designed for students not enrolled at GW, but added that it could become a recruiting tool to attract students from other countries.

The program could also balance the drive for foreign tuition dollars with enhancing academic quality, said Richard Edelstein, a research associate at University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education.

But he warned that as universities push recruitment strategies in countries like China and India – whose students mostly pay full tuition – it can lead to “a corrupted admissions process where the agency recruits students who may not have the requisite competence in English or are otherwise poorly prepared for university level studies.”

Enrollment of foreign graduate students climbed about 39 percent this year, with enrollment surging 60 percent for foreign undergraduates over the last eight years. Most international undergraduates do not receive merit aid from the University or federal grants to enroll, so their tuition bills could cushion the GW’s budget as it increases financial aid overall.

University spokeswoman Latarsha Gatlin said Eskandarian could not comment on the program because it is in the early planning stages.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science offers a similar program to students already accepted into its department of computer science and department of electrical and computer engineering. Dubbed the Bridge Program, international students who struggle with English skills take 20 hours of classroom instruction every week through Georgetown’s intensive English as a Foreign Language Program.

While the idea of a distinct gap year for non-matriculated international students has little precedent among U.S. universities, the University of California-Davis offers a Global Achievement Program for international high school graduates.

Wesley Young, director of services for the program, said he stresses programming and cultural integration for participating students.

“It’s important during this year to provide lots of opportunities to interact and get to know a variety of Americans and American experiences,” Young said. “Just coming to the U.S. and sitting in classes with international students misses one of the major advantages the gap program can provide.”

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