GRANT APPLICATION KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY Improving International Student Services Department of Political Science in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education April 6, 2011 Grant Application Improving International Student Services in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education BY NARGIZA JEDWAB 4/6/2011
Needs statement and related research Summary Research shows that international students bring financial, cultural and intellectual benefits to education in the United States (Verbik & Lasanowski, 2007). By interacting with American students and scholars at home and through exchange programs abroad, international students form enriching and lasting educational experiences and partnerships. Studies suggest such relationships can boost America’s global competence and national security (NAFSA1, 2003). Studies also suggest that international students represent some of America’s brightest academic and labour workforce; without them some universities would not be able to run certain academic programs (Barber, E. & Morgan, R., 1987). International students also bring other economic and educational benefits to the United States (NAFSA Task Report, 2003). However, many international students report experiencing hostility and discrimination during their time of study in the U.S. They frequently share these experiences with their peers in their home country influencing the peers’ decision to study abroad (Brender, 2004; Kane 2002, Lee & Rice, 2007, etc.). In addition, their experiences may be associated with a lack of resources in universities, resulting in a failure to meet students’ needs. Therefore, in order to retain and attract international students, educational institutions should create conditions to improve student satisfaction (Lee, 2010); and state and local governments should support these efforts by passing laws that would enable such developments. Foreign policy benefits 1 National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, now called Association of International Educators
The awareness of international issues is integral to security in the United States. Studies show that forward thinking leaders are influenced by international educational exchange. By studying cultures and languages and by living abroad, people gain a better understanding of differences and similarities of the cultures there are around the world. International education provides a way to build relationships, foster goodwill and mutual partnerships among countries. As a NAFSA Task Force (2003) reports: “We must continue to nurture our greatest foreign policy asset: the friendship of those who know our country because we have welcomed them as students.” Thus, by welcoming international students, the United States instills an appreciation for its values, culture, political values and institutions. The NAFSA report further states: “The ties formed at school between American and future foreign leaders have facilitated innumerable foreign policy relationships. The millions of people who have studied in the United States over the years constitute a remarkable reservoir of goodwill for our country, perhaps our most undervalued foreign policy asset” (NAFSA Task Force Report, 2003, p.8). These relationships will also help the United States to resolve the global threat of terrorism by enabling access of future foreign leaders to education, since lack of such access “can nurture the isolationism, fundamentalism and bigoted caricatures that drive anti-‐Western terrorism. After the September 11 attacks, the more people who can experience this country first-‐hand, breaking down the stereotypes they grow up with and opening their minds to a world beyond their borders, the better it is for the U.S. security” (NAFSA Task Force Report, 2003, p.6) Economic benefits International students are also contributors to the United States economy. It is
estimated that international students and their dependents spent on average $ 13.5 billion in 2005/06 (Institute of International Education, 2007). Moreover, more than 70 percent of undergraduate international students pay full tuition; and since they cannot receive financial aid, more domestic students can take advantage of the available assistance (NAFSA, 2003). In addition, as U.S. law permits, some students remain in the country after completion of their degrees and contribute to the U.S. economy and its long-‐term interests by investing their resources (NAFSA, 2003). Former Secretary of Defense William Perry in his address to the 1998 USIA-‐ETS conference, noted: “Attracting foreign students to study in the U.S. is a win-‐win situation: it’s a win for our economy; it’s a win for our foreign policy; and it’s a win for our educational programs” – and all the more so since September 11.” Educational benefits International students contribute to campus diversity by adding diverse perspectives and broadening cultural understanding in and out of the classroom (Bevis, 2002 & Harrison, 2002). In addition, science, technology and engineering departments need the skills and knowledge of international students and scholars in order to remain competitive in the global market (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). International graduate students make a significant contribution to research and teaching as well as the successful running of certain academic programs. Survey results show that foreign students are an asset in engineering education and without them training and research would suffer (Barber & Morgan, 1987). Current problems Research predicts that international student enrollment is going to be affected by economic shifts, aggressive recruitment efforts by the U.S.’ competitors and other factors
that reduce the U.S.’ competitive edge. These factors include: high costs, immigration rules, a complex educational system and integration of international students into American culture. Furthermore, cultural and language differences can hinder students from adapting to campus life. Studies show that many students encounter misunderstanding, lack social support, feel isolated and have difficulty in making academic progress (Bohm et al., 2002; Fischer, 2009; Li&Kaye, 1998; Lloyd, 2003; Robertson, 2000). Some studies have criticized institutions and their role in excluding and marginalizing international students (Beoku-‐Betts, 2004; Fox, 1994; Lee & Rice, 2007). International student service departments can influence some of the impressions that international students have about education in the U.S. A recent survey, conducted in one of the PASSHE (Pennsylvania System of Higher Education) Universities, indicated that international student service departments have a positive impact on students if they carefully cater to their needs. They should, however, do more to ensure satisfaction so as to ensure retention and increase future enrollment rates (Jedwab, 2011). It is important that they provide the highest quality customer service and have the means to respond to student needs in a timely fashion. Goals and objectives The goal of this project is to improve the international student services within PASSHE. The success of recruiting and retaining international students is dependent on the right conditions for international students on U.S. campuses. This project is a continuation of an initial study conducted in one of the universities within PASSHE in early 2011. The specific objectives of this study should be: 1. To improve international student services in ways that makes students feel welcomed
and treated fairly. This will include ensuring international student services are trained in cross-‐cultural communication. In some cases, it may be necessary to employ staff with particular language abilities in order to ease communication barriers. 2. To assist students in organizing events in order to encourage integration of international students and international student services staff. The events popular with students, according to the initial study, are: culture nights, trips to local sites, food nights, out of town trips, banquets and others. 3. To provide opportunities for international students to meet local families. Some students indicated their interest to meet locals, to learn more about American culture and to share their own culture. 4. To provide international students with auxiliary services. In the initial survey students expressed their need for public transportation. Thus, universities can ensure that such transportation is available to students to travel to shopping centres and other places. 5. To encourage the exchange of ideas among the PASSHE universities concerning which projects have contributed most to student satisfaction; 6. To raise campus awareness about the benefits of diversity by conducting workshops and promoting further research.
METHODOLOGY The method employed in the evaluation of international student services will include an anonymous electronic survey and a series of informal confidential interviews. The author of this proposal, who utilized www.Surveymonkey.com, a trusted web source for the development of research tools, will develop the survey and the interview questions. The PASSHE administration is keen to cooperate in the evaluation of the international student services and pursuant to the survey results, make appropriate improvements. Survey All PASSHE universities are willing to assist with collecting data. Each university’s administrative office in charge of international student services will distribute the survey to their international students via email, explaining its purpose and benefits. The estimated number of students participating in the survey is a total of 1,200. The survey will be a combination of a series of close-‐ended and open-‐ended questions, which will measure the following: 1. What services international student administrations lack. 2. Whether students are satisfied with the support received at the international student services. 3. How helpful the information on the International student services webpage is. 4. What aspects of campus life can help students to feel integrated. 5. What events students have enjoyed attending and what events should be organized. 6. What auxiliary services international offices should provide. 7. What other factors could improve their experience.
The data collected from the survey will be analyzed and interpreted using the statistical software called Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). The results of the survey will be put together in a report and distributed to the PASSHE administration and to state and local legislative bodies. Interviews While the survey is being completed, the researcher and her assistants will conduct interviews with students who volunteered to participate. The participating universities’ administration will recruit international students to take part in the interviews. The research team aims to interview ten students from each university. Students will be asked to come forward by a certain deadline. If the number of students who volunteer exceeds the needed limit, ten students will be randomly selected from the group to represent each university. The research team will be provided with student contact information and arrange interviews on university campuses. The students, who participate in the interviews, will be asked to sign a waiver to release their contact details to the research team. The names of students who participated in both the survey and interviews will not be disclosed. The interviews will provide opportunities to capture important emotional responses to questions that the survey cannot measure. The interviews will discuss: specific positive and negative encounters at the international student service departments; suggestions of what can be improved; what events students have enjoyed and what events should be organized; what other services should be organized for students; how students get around town and whether the international student services should have their own transportation services; and others.
In order to complete the project within the allotted time, it will be necessary to employ research assistants with skills to analyze the statistics and those that have good interviewing and writing skills. In addition, clerical staff will be needed to assist in various administrative tasks such as making interview appointments, arranging accommodation and others as need arises. A report will be compiled at the completion of the interviews and distributed to the PASSHE universities as well as local and state legislative bodies. If this project shows that student satisfaction is largely influenced by the quality of international student services, it follows that appropriate policy considerations can be made at the state and local levels.
PROJECT SCHEDULE Survey design Survey sent Reminders sent Survey results collected Survey results analyzed Interviews conducted Interviews analyzed Reports produced
POLICY CONSIDERATIONS The outcome of this project should lead the state and local legislature to accommodate the need to sustain and improve international student experiences on U.S. campuses. The evaluation is anticipated to show that sufficient resources are needed in order to provide quality services. Specifically, as this research relates to publicly funded universities, state and local governments will face a challenge to provide funding in order to achieve excellence in campus programs and exchange programs and to enjoy the other benefits associated with having international students. There are specific steps the authorities can take in order to achieve these goals: (1) Develop a strategic plan in consultation with the higher education community and other related constituencies that articulates why international students are important to the national interest (as described in the Needs section). (2) Develop a recruitment strategy to bring students into local universities. (3) Provide sufficient funding to enable universities to recruit highly qualified staff for international student services. This follows that the DoE to provide appropriate funding for administrative staff and to student integration activities and auxiliary services. (4) Provide opportunities for students to access information about available funding. More specifically, make more private loans available to foreign students, particularly loans that permit co-‐signers from abroad. For example, a good model for this is the Duke MBA Opportunity Loan, which allows students to borrow $30,000 per year with a 2% interest rate (NAFSA, 2003). (5) Provide opportunities for tuition exchange programs where students from overseas
exchange place with students from the United States, which has proved to be a success and is a minimal cost to both institutions (NAFSA, 2003). (6) Provide scholarship programs in exchange for public commitments, which could incorporate scholarship programs that include an out-‐of-‐state remission in exchange for services to the local community and campus. These services could include translation for local business and teaching in local schools about their countries and cultures. Such a program has proven to be valuable in Oregon State University (NAFSA, 2003). (7) Provide internship opportunities for students during their matriculation years and after completion of their degree programs. This effort should prompt state and local officials to work with the federal government officials to pass appropriate legislation that would remove excessive governmentally imposed barriers to access and address the issues of cost and complexity. (8) Provide funding for cross-‐cultural training workshops and awareness of its benefits on campuses. All these initiatives can be part of a strategic marketing plan. The proposed changes are necessary for U.S. education to maintain its competitive edge with an overseas audience. The evidence presented as a result of this research in combination with the earlier research and federal government proposals (NAFSA, 2003) may be one of the many factors to influence Governor Corbett to reconsider his controversial proposal of reducing education funding.
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