Report shows international students an important part of higher education

International students participating in the 2017 Homecoming Parade. Photo from newsok.com.

International students participating in the 2017 Homecoming Parade. Photo from newsok.com.

Although Oklahoma Christian University’s international student enrollment has remained relatively consistent over the last few years, The New York Times reported some U.S. colleges have not been as fortunate.

The same article said some colleges’ budget cuts stem from a decreasing number of international students enrolling in U.S. universities. According to the report, some schools charge international students a higher tuition than domestic students, so the lower enrollment numbers have led to budget issues.

Director of Student Financial Services Judy Cuellar said Oklahoma Christian charges undergraduate international students the same tuition as undergraduate domestic students. She said international students who are applying for education visas must show they are able to pay tuition in order to receive the documentation.

“Most international students qualify for a small international student discount,” Cuellar said. “These discounts are determined at admission. Some international students have an international partnership where there is an agreement within their country to cover some of their education costs. Some are awarded just like our domestic students if they have had the opportunity to take the ACT or SAT and have a good high school GPA.”

“We have seen a slight decrease in the number of undergraduate international students over the last year,” Cuellar said. “The larger decrease that we have seen has been in our graduate student population.”

Miji Lee, a freshman student from South Korea, said she wanted to attend a Christian school in the United States and began looking into scholarship options available to her.

“My mom is a Christian school teacher in Korea, so I can get a scholarship in here,” Lee said. “I was just looking for a Christian school, and then I realized there was a scholarship for my mom.”

Similarly, Leonardo Langner, a freshman student from Brazil, said he chose to attend Oklahoma Christian because he grew up in a Christian environment. He said the school’s focus on faith played a big role in his decision to enroll.

Director of International Programs John Osborne said Oklahoma Christian’s international office works to maintain quality communication with the international offices at universities in other countries. He said he has not personally heard of any international students who feel unwelcome on Oklahoma Christian’s campus.

“We have worked hard to communicate with our partners, to reinforce those relationships, to communicate how much we value them,” Osborne said. “We are sending OC students to our partnerships in Japan and China every year through the Asian studies program. They’re sending students here. They’re sending faculty here. We’re sending faculty there. We’re still working hard to communicate desire for students to come and have a great experience.”

Langner said his teachers at Oklahoma Christian have been helpful and willing to answer any questions he has about school. He said he can tell they truly care about his success as a student, unlike the teachers he previously had in Brazil.

“Everyone is very welcoming here,” Langner said. “I think the first person that I met was Kelsey Herndon and he always tried to help me. I know that he doesn’t work now anymore with international students—now he’s more with study abroad—but before, he always tried to help me. He showed me the campus and I thought the people there are really nice and I really like that.”

Lee said other students check in with her often, and ask how she is doing. Because Oklahoma Christian’s campus is fairly small, Lee said there are good opportunities for her to make friends. She also said she has had good experiences with the professors she interacts with.

“Most professors want to help, and if I go to ask something they are really nice to explain with easy words,” Lee said. “It really makes me understand better.”

Osborne said President John deSteiguer visited Oklahoma Christian’s partner schools in China and Japan in an effort to stay in personal contact with the schools in those locations. He said Oklahoma Christian and its partner universities are still actively exchanging students for study programs.

“We’ve got a group from Ibaraki Christian University coming this spring and those numbers are trending up,” Osborne said. “We had 12 [students] last year, we have 13 this year, but the year before that was eight or something. The year before that was six, so that’s good on the short-term exchange program.”

Because students at Oklahoma Christian are impacted by both the campus environment and the Edmond, OK community, Osborne said there are a lot of factors influencing international students’ perceptions of the university. He said he thinks the International Student Council, which is part of the Student Government Association, is a good opportunity for all Oklahoma Christian students to interact with one another.

“Connect with the ISC and say, ‘What do you see is important areas of need and areas that we can help our international student population here at OC?’” Osborne said. “We have students from more than 40 different countries here—it’s really healthy—so that’s great.”

Langner said the International Student Council provides students with opportunities to experience many different cultures. He said it is a great opportunity for all students on campus to come together and learn about each other.

“One of the things the international student council they try to do is they try to make sure the international students feel more comfortable here—that they’re not different,” Langner said. “That’s, I think, the best thing.”

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