I'm Leaving, The Food Sucks!

Do international students leave American institutions because of meal plans?

May 29, 2014

Day two of blogging from NAFSA14 in San Diego.

Quick correction - there are more than 9,000 attendees -- this is a huge event and every year, it gets bigger. Earlier today, I overheard a comparison to EDUCAUSE -- the same person admitted that it is probably even bigger and glitzier than EDUCAUSE…

I started the day at Jeff Selingo’s talk on the future of higher ed -- it was good, one of the best I’ve attended this week - BUT, it didn’t really touch on international education AND the overwhelming majority of the attendees are mid-level and front-line international education folks. If I have time later today or this weekend, I will work to make Selingo’s talk relevant to the international education audience ... because it’s necessary and the traditional study abroad model, like the traditional academic calendar, is outdated and we need to build for the future…

Next, I attended a panel on International Student Retention (see Elizabeth Redden’s excellent summary/analysis here).

My quick thoughts on international student retention:

  • It’s about time we focus on retention and success of international students - long overdue!

  • Unfortunately the driver for this focus is financial. One presenter in a talk later in the day referred to international students as “cash-cows.”

  • This revenue-based framework impacts the ways in which we look at success and retention. The focus becomes on recruiting the students with the greatest financial means who will require the least financial investment on the part of institutions.

  • This creates a situation of imbalance within in our classrooms and on our campuses.

  • When recruiting students (domestic and international), we need to think of the make-up of the incoming cohort as a group. Too many students in the same major, from the same country, from the same economic status, creates challenges for teaching/learning and for campus life. Recruitment and retention needs to be thoughtful and strategic not episodic and haphazard.

  • Many of you were once international students - if you left an institution, why did you leave? I’m assuming it was for reasons more substantial than meal plans and housing (some of the top reasons students gave for leaving their institutions).


More later today.


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