Special to The Ledger
The college saw a decline in enrollment of international and immigrant students for the fall 2017 semester.
Other Kansas colleges have observed this reduction too, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research and a story published by the Kansas City Star in January, 2018.
With a drop of more than 70 international students going into the fall semester, Natalie Alleman Beyers, director, Office of Institutional Research, deemed the situation significant and associated it with the political climate.
Kim Steinmetz, director, International and Immigrant Student Services, said she believes the cause cannot be pinpointed to a single factor, but there are consequences starting at a federal level.
“I think there has definitely been increased scrutiny in terms of coming to the U.S. in all categories, all visa types,” Steinmetz said. “There were some travel bans that certainly increased some of the scrutiny and the ability for students to get access to the U.S.”
Other nations want international students to attend their institutions of higher learning, creating competition for the United States.
“The perception of the climate in the U.S. has certainly influenced students choosing other countries like Canada, the U.K. or Australia,” Steinmetz said. “They have been big competitors and I think if their process is more accessible to students it will be harder for us to compete.”
Marcus Wong, international student and Student Center employee, relates to the concern of international students entering the U.S.
“I think [international students] are just a little more afraid about getting into the country,” Wong said. “I did have a relative … that was denied entry into the U.S. due to recent immigration laws.”
The college benefits economically from the international students enrolling. According to the Association for International Educators, international students supported more than 2,696 jobs and generated $26.2 million in Kansas in 2016.
However, Steinmetz said she did not enjoy putting a monetary value on the importance of international students’ contributions.
“I always feel kind of hesitant to frame things by monetary terms because I believe people have more value than what they contribute economically,” Steinmetz said.
International students add to the learning process for students at the college said Dawn Gale, professor, philosophy and advisor of the International Club.
“I teach critical thinking and I think studying … or immersing yourself in another culture is the best thing you can do,” Gale said.
Holly Milkowart, chair, English for Academic Purposes, stresses the importance of international students in the community.
“Anytime you have a decrease in that kind of student population, you lose diversity, equity and inclusion,” Milkowart said. “You lose a part of your greater community.”
International experiences benefit local students who may never have a chance to travel abroad, which is a focus of the International Club.
“I would encourage more people to get involved,” Gale said. “I’m passionate about international education, I think it’s life changing. I think that you don’t have to go abroad have these experiences, you can have international experiences here on our campus.”
*Editors note: This story was written as part of the News Writing and Reporting class as an assignment.