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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, November 21, 2015 10:09 pm

Students from around world enrich Indiana

 While the state of Indiana isn’t extending a welcome to Syrian refugees, it is welcoming tens of thousands of college students from countries – many in the Mideast – on almost every continent. They enrich our campuses and state culturally, educationally and economically.

Purdue University in West Lafayette had the seventh-highest international student enrollment in the nation last year. Indiana University in Bloomington ranks 16th in the nation.

IPFW saw a 20 percent increase in the number of international students this year, to 259. About 90 percent are degree-seeking students; the balance represents students in short-term programs.

"This brings the world to our domestic students at IPFW," said Brian R. Mylrea, director of international education. "Many of the students in our area don’t have the opportunity to travel abroad."

Indiana Tech is host to 244 international students this year. Matt Bair, director of marketing and communications, said the university has seen an influx of students from Brazil and Saudi Arabia thanks to programs sponsored by their countries.

More than 28,000 international students studied in Indiana last year. Their estimated expenditures in the state totaled $919.2 million, much of it in tuition payments that help subsidize Indiana’s public institutions. In the 3rd Congressional District, 746 international students at IPFW, Indiana Tech, Trine University, Concordia Theological Seminary and Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast contribute $23.6 million to the region’s economy and support an estimated 149 jobs.

"Indiana Tech has long been an institution that gladly welcomes students from all over the world, but we never realized the impact on our community was so great," Bair said. "This is something we are very proud of."

Open Doors, the Institute of International Education’s annual report, finds the fastest-growing enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities in 35 years. Total enrollment in 2014-15 was 974,926 students.

"This strong growth confirms that the United States remains the destination of choice in higher education," according to the report.

Mylrea said international students are increasingly seeing IPFW as an "affordable, high-quality option" for study. About 50 countries are represented among IPFW’s international students, with China, India, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia as the leading countries of origin.

"In the six years I’ve been here, we’ve really received overwhelming support from our administration, which allows us to increase our international enrollment, to internationalize our campus and our curriculum," he said.

Where Indiana and the U.S. are lagging is in the number of students traveling overseas to study. About 9,650 Indiana students studied abroad in 2013-14. The increase last year in overseas study among U.S. students was 5 percent, or half the increase in students enrolled from other nations. While the benefits of hosting international students are great, we also will benefit if more U.S. students become overseas ambassadors.