Many Kansas universities see drop in international students

March 03, 2019 - 11:35 am
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Many Kansas universities are seeing a drop in the number of enrolled international students, which education leaders said hurts campuses' cultural diversity and school finances.

The number of international students enrolled in Kansas Board of Regents colleges has declined by more than 11 percent since 2015, or roughly 1,560 students, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Many of the affected schools already face limited state funding and declining enrollments, which is compounded by the lost revenue from international students who pay out-of-state tuition, often live on campus and contribute to local economies.

International students account for a roughly $260 million economic impact in Kansas, supporting about 2,500 jobs, according to data from the nonprofit NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

"These are 600 fewer students paying out-of-state tuition coming to our university," said Charles Taber, provost of Kansas State University. "That's millions of dollars of revenue loss."

Chuck Olcese, director of international support services at the University of Kansas, acknowledged that money often leads conversations about a decrease in the number of international students. But Olcese said "the more guiding factor is the ability to make an international environment for students from Kansas or wherever they're coming from across the U.S."

About 70 percent of University of Kansas students may not have met someone from another country nor had any serious interaction with another culture, Olcese said.

Many school leaders have attributed the decline in the number of international students coming to Kansas to the perception that the country is increasingly unwelcoming to immigrants, pointing to issues such as President Donald Trump's travel ban.

"The travel bans that came out right after the Trump presidency took effect and children being separated from parents at the borders, these all make international news in big ways, and just kind of underscores an unwelcome feeling," Olcese said.

He said it's difficult to imagine any profession that isn't being affected by these issues.

"If you've done your whole education in a very isolated environment without interacting with someone who thinks different culturally than you, you're really at a disadvantage," Olcese said.

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