There are currently 360 international students enrolled at the university, according to Marquette’s student enrollment/full-time equivalency interactive report. In spring 2016, there were 547 enrolled. The report, which includes data as far back as fall 2005, has shown a steady decrease in international student enrollment since that number hit its peak in 2013, with a total of 621 international students.
Vice President for Enrollment Management John Baworowsky says having a diverse student body is a top priority for Marquette, and the university is always working to grow its number of international students.
“We are always working hard to grow the number of international students this fall and beyond. Our international numbers have always been modest, so the revenue impact on Marquette is minimal,” Baworowsky says in an email.
Susan Whipple, assistant director at the Office of International Education, says the pandemic has already significantly impacted international student enrollment and will continue to do so for years to come.
“Any decrease in international student enrollment impacts the classroom experience,” Whipple says in an email. “Students can’t be prepared for a global world if they aren’t learning about different experiences or different perspectives from their international student classmates or developing friendships that will last into their professional careers or provide the personal learning of the ‘other’ that a Jesuit education requires.”
Adjunct assistant professor and English as a Second Language (ESL) program coordinator Caroline Oas says that the decrease in enrollment impacts cultural and language diversity at Marquette.
“Being able to teach, learn and live with students from all over the world provides Marquette with the best opportunities to meet our university vision,” Oas says in an email.
Baworowsky says the declining international student enrollment at Marquette even before the pandemic coincides with a general trend of lessening interest in English language programs.
Whipple says the recent decline may be a result of many factors such as how welcoming the United States is viewed, crime rates, economic factors and, most recently, COVID-19. She says that international student enrollment has fluctuated over the past years, but was especially lower in fall 2020 and spring 2021 due to the pandemic.
Whipple says the pandemic has influenced international student enrollment more than enrollment for domestic students. For example, factors like borders being closed due to the pandemic in some countries, flights being cancelled, visa appointments not being available and families losing jobs that would have helped pay for education all affect international students’ abilities to be at Marquette.
Baworowsky says that Marquette relied on Education, Language, and Skills English Centers to send students after they completed their English studies, yet the popularity of coming to the United States for English language training has drastically declined throughout the past five years. Baworowsky says that Marquette would see around 30 or more new students from ELS each year, but now that number has dropped to less than five per year. ELS English Centers are programs where students can learn English and experience an English-speaking culture all across the United States.
“We have seen declines in graduate business students, and – as mentioned – a decline in students coming for English language programs,” Baworowsky says in an email. “Our enrollments from China have increased each year. The pandemic has slowed this down but we expect a turnaround in Fall 2022. We also have a more favorable environment in Washington D.C. due to the change in administration.”
Baworowsky says that this is because when former President Trump took office, international enrollment decreased in America. He says that Trump’s rhetoric and policies discouraged students from coming to the U.S. for higher education. Further, he says when the pandemic hit, many international parents stated that they were unhappy with how the US handled COVID-19 and elected to keep their children at home. He says Marquette is hoping for a rebound due to the new presidential administration being more open to international students studying in the United States.
Oas says Marquette is also feeling more hopeful for increasing international student enrollment due to the promising vaccine rollout.
Throughout the pandemic, recruiting international students has looked a little different.
Baworowsky says since the pandemic began, Marquette has relied more on email and their website to attract students, as opposed to staff members traveling. Prior to the pandemic, Marquette sent teams to China, Vietnam, Latin America and the Middle East to recruit students. He says that China does not have many high school college counselors, so families go to agencies for college advice. The Office of International Education has also held many virtual events for the Office of Undergraduate Admission’s virtual open houses.
Despite the decrease in numbers, The Office of International Education has many initiatives in place to increase international enrollment.
Some of theses initiatives include Marquette expanding the number of Chinese agencies it works with and conducting virtual fairs in Latin America and China. The OIE developed a partnership with an agency in Oman, and the Undergraduate Admissions Office is connecting with international students in U.S. high schools. Marquette also has partnered with the company Amerigo, which places international students into Catholic high schools, to send Marquette staff members go to these high schools to talk about the university, Baworowsky says.
“Despite the loss of key employees due to the reduction in force we hope to continue the same strategies for enrolling and retaining international students, but this has yet to be determined,” Whipple says in an email.
This story was written by Julia Abuzzahab. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.