UI tops list for foreign enrollment

By Stephanie Benhart

International enrollment at the University has gradually increased this decade, but it was not until this year that the University enrolled more international students than any other public university in the nation.

According to the Division of Management Information Web site, which compiles enrollment numbers, the majority of these international students are graduate students.

However, the number of international undergraduates is also growing.

In fall 2000, 2.3 percent of undergraduates at the University were from foreign countries, according to the Web site. In fall 2007, 5.5 percent of undergradutes were international students.

With these numbers, the University was recently ranked No. 1 among public schools in the U.S. for international student enrollment.

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Martin McFarlane, acting associate director for International Student and Scholar Services, said the University has been ranked high for the past 10 to 20 years and has been in the top 10 since the 1970s. As more international students choose the University, questions have arisen about giving enough attention to Illinois students.

State Sen. Ed Maloney, D-Chicago, who chairs the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, recently brought to attention the idea of a possible cap on the number of international students admitted.

“I can tell you, every member of the General Assembly has received calls where quality students did not get in (to the University),” he said.

McFarlane said the “numbers have been blown out of proportion,” and “Illinois students are given a fair go.”

Keith Marshall, associate provost for enrollment management, said the University has become more competitive for enrollment as more “high caliber” students apply.

“As we receive more applications from international students, it may increase the competition,” Marshall said.

But having international students on campus benefits in-state students as well because of the added exposure to diversity, he said.

“Our primary mission is to serve the state of Illinois, and we believe we can serve the state better by having international students on campus,” Marshall said.

He said the University does minimal recruiting abroad. It is the University’s reputation that helps bring international students to campus, he added, because these students pay attention to high program rankings, such as Engineering and Business.

According to Marshall, the University still has a significant in-state population. Between 88 percent and 89 percent of students are from Illinois, much higher than in-state enrollment figures at any other Big Ten schools, he said.

“You can’t put a price on increasing the campus at a multicultural level,” McFarlane said.

The shrinking business world and discussions made available with increased international students are reasons to promote a global atmosphere on campus, he said.

“There are insight and benefits you can’t get elsewhere,” McFarlane said.

Milica Popovic, freshman in ACES, who is originally from Serbia but lived in Greece for 13 years, said she chose the University for its recognition and diverse climate.

“The students here have accepted me for who I am, and they always learn something new from me as well as I learn something new from them,” she said.