September 3, 2014

Ithaca Sees Low Retention Rate for International Students Post-Graduation

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With 71.2 foreign students for every 1,000 students enrolled in its institutions of higher education, Ithaca has the highest concentration of foreign students among all U.S. cities, according to a new Brookings Institution study. However, only 14 percent of these students will stay in Ithaca after graduating, the study finds.

The Aug. 29 study based its results on the number of F-1 visa approvals — the most common form of visa for international students in the United States — relative to the overall student population of each city.

According to Prof. Ronald Ehrenberg, industrial and labor relations, Ithaca does not serve as an ideal environment for most foreign students to apply their degree.

“Very few undergraduate or graduate students, both international and U.S. citizens, stay in Ithaca after graduation because of the limited employment opportunities in the area,” he said.

However, Ehrenberg said this stands in contrast to the “extraordinary educational opportunities” that bring so many of the foreign undergraduate and graduate students to Ithaca in the first place.

Ruoxi Zhang ’15, an international student from China, agreed with Ehrenberg’s sentiments, saying she was initially attracted to Cornell for its prestige. And while she may stay in the United States following graduation if she finds a job, she said she will likely not reside in Ithaca.

“[Ithaca is] a small town and consequently [has] fewer opportunities,” Zhang said. “Besides, most foreign students I know come from big cities in their respective countries. It’s very likely that they are not used to life in small town — at least for my part, I’m never used to this suburban lifestyle in Ithaca.”

(Connor Archard / Sun Sports Photography Editor)