Staff Editorial: University resources should reflect increase in foreign students

It wasn’t a huge shock when the International Services Office had to temporarily end walk-in hours due to budget constraints and office reorganization. Budget cuts have forced just about every department to
tighten their belts recently. But the cuts draw attention to a
bigger problem: a growing international student population without robust enough resources to support those students.

The cuts, while temporary, take away students’ ability to ask time-sensitive or brief questions. International students face challenges that are different than any other student populations on campus. They have to figure out their student visas, maybe deal with language barriers or learn to navigate a new culture. A lot of these difficulties come up without notice and an appointment-only system may not allow students to get answers in a quick and easy way.

Of course, budget cuts are messy. Students should understand that they are a necessary, albeit unfortunate, part of life at GW right now. But if GW is going to continue to make cuts and reorganize departments, they need to set up infrastructure when they make those changes. The international student population at GW is growing at a rapid rate. These students deserve the resources they require so they can succeed and enjoy their time at the University.

Doug Shaw, the senior associate provost for international strategy, said in an email that staff in the International Services Office are working to make sure students can get their questions answered through appointments.

“Students who are unable to meet during the offered appointment times may request another appointment time, which we are doing our best to accommodate,” Shaw said.

It’s good that Shaw and other leaders know international students need extra help, but appointments are better for students who need to discuss in-depth issues. It doesn’t make sense that the financial aid office, the registrar’s office and advising offices in most schools have walk-in hours but the hub for international students does not.

If budget cuts are going to affect the International Services Office, then the University must at least centralize information for international students. GW just revamped its main website, so it would make sense for them to update the International Services Office page as well. Instead of just including information about places to eat around campus and how to ride the Metro like the current site does, they should centralize useful information about joining student organizations and tips for figuring out common problems. The University already offers many resources to international students that aren’t centralized on the site. Students shouldn’t have to wade through multiple web pages for simple information. Simply updating the current website or adding to it would be helpful, especially when students don’t have walk-in hours to attend.

The lack of centralization on the website coupled with the walk-in hours cuts takes away from the University’s goal of building the international student population. In the University’s strategic plan, which was created by former provost Steven Lerman, officials aimed to double the undergraduate international student population by 2021. As of now, that population is right around 12 or 13 percent. That means that officials are on track to meet their goal – or are moving even faster than expected. But officials need to provide the resources to support international students if they want to continue to admit them.

International students introduce domestic students to different perspectives and experiences, which makes GW more of the global institution officials hope it can be. International students come from different upbringings than the ones domestic students grew up with in the U.S., which gives both groups new perspectives.

But right now, administrators aren’t making resources for this growing student population very accessible. If officials want to continue to attract international students to GW, they need to provide the resources these students need. Even before cutting walk-in hours, the resources for international students on the International Services Office website were lacking. These students not only have to navigate a confusing and outdated website, but have now lost the ability to walk into an office and ask questions to someone who knows the answers.

Budget cuts are inevitable. But if the University is going to make cuts in one place, officials have to take steps to figure out how to support the students who are most affected in the meantime. It’s noble that GW wants to increase its international student population, but officials need to put in the effort to make them comfortable and provide them with the resources to help them succeed.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Melissa Holzberg and contributing opinions editor Irene Ly, based on discussions with managing director Eva Palmer, homepage editor Tyler Loveless, contributing sports editor Matt Cullen and copy editor Melissa Schapiro.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.