September 26, 2012

International Grad Student Enrollment Soars

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Following a decade-long trend of rising enrollment of international students in the Graduate School, the proportion of international students rose again this year, by four percent — bringing the number to nearly 49 percent of the new class, according to Graduate School communications director Elizabeth Ellis.

Graduate students from China alone comprise 23 percent of incoming students this year.

Female international graduate students in professional master’s degree programs saw the sharpest increase in enrollment, rising by 64 percent in the last 10 years, according to the 2010-11 Graduate School Annual Report. International males followed with 29-percent growth over the same time period, according to the report.

Jason Kahabka M.S. ’03, assistant dean for student services and admissions of the Graduate School, said the rise in international student enrollment corresponded with an increase in international applicants — a trend he attributed in part to a growing demand among students around the world for graduate-level education.

“As countries develop and there’s more of a middle-class and more educational opportunities globally, those students are certainly looking for the very best graduate education available,” Kahabka said.

He noted that this is especially true today of students hailing from China and India.

At the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs — which offers a master’s degree in public administration— the number of applicants from East Asia has risen the most in recent years, according to Lisa Lennox, CIPA’s assistant director for external relations. Students from that area have grown increasingly interested in learning how to finance and run NGOs that are cropping up throughout the region, Lennox said.

She said that CIPA’s increased offerings in the programs that teach those skills may have made Cornell’s Graduate School more appealing to these students.

“Many of our international fellows want to study international development and, while this has long been a concentration option, we now have more resources available in that area,” Lennox said.

The increased interest in attending Cornell among international students is also reflected in the yield rate — or percentage of admitted international applicants who enroll at the University — at the Graduate School over the last decade.

More than half of international females accepted to the Graduate School are matriculating, up from 34 percent in 2002, according to the 2010-11 Graduate School Annual Report. For international males, the yield rate rose to 47 percent in 2010, according to the report.

The influx of international students also parallels a steady increase in the number of students admitted to and enrolled at the Graduate School in general, with matriculation having increased by 45 percent between 2001-2010, according to the report.

Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth said the University’s figures “seem to be in line with those of other institutions.”

Increasing enrollment of international students calls for a need for increased support for these students, according to Brendan O’Brien, director of the International Students and Scholars Office.

“There may be more pressure on international students [compared to domestic students] to succeed depending on the backgrounds they’re from,” O’Brien said.

According to Knuth, the Graduate School coordinated with Cornell Career Services to create a new staff position for this year: graduate and international student career advisor. Anne Poduska, who was hired to the position in July, will focus on career development skills and programming for international students, as well as graduate and professional students in general.

“Because graduate and professional students make up such a relatively large proportion of international students on campus, this new position has a strong focus on the needs of international graduate students,” Knuth said.

O’Brien added that there are programs already in place “to answer the needs of any student, whatever those needs are.”

One such program is the International Teaching Assistant Program, which the University uses to assess the oral communication skills of international teaching assistants — who come from countries where English is not a primary language — prior to beginning their teaching duties, according to Kimberly Kenyon, the program’s director and associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence. ITAP courses aim to help students build and refine oral communication and examine the influence of culture on teaching and learning in the Cornell classroom.

Knuth also cited the housing office and the School of Continuing Education and Summer Session’s Academic English for Cornell Graduate Students program.

Kenyon said she welcomes an increase in international graduate students at Cornell.

“We’re excited about having more students,” she said. “And [we] have plenty of space to accommodate them.”

Original Author: Nikki Lee