A recent faculty budget and faculty Senate meeting convened at Plattsburgh State. At these meetings, it was revealed that international student applications to PSUC were down 41 percent in 2017, showing exactly how far these numbers have decreased in recent years.
Plattsburgh’s international student community is diversified, with students from over 70 countries.
“We bring the world to the Plattsburgh area,” Associate Vice President of the Global Education Office Jacqueline Vogl said.
For international students, some of the big reasons to come to the United States include a higher rate of employability, specific areas of study not offered in other countries and the opportunity to learn a second language.
However, a recent survey from Kaplan Test Prep showed only 63 percent of nearly 400 admissions officers from a diverse range of colleges and universities across the United States are concerned about a decline in international applicants becoming a nationwide trend. Vogl expressed the application numbers last year were inflated for a number of reasons on campus and across the country.
“There’s the perception that the U.S. is a less welcoming community than it was a couple years ago,” Vogl said. “A downturn in international applications is a nationwide phenomenon. It is not unique to SUNY Plattsburgh.” She agrees the current sociopolitical environment in the U.S. could be one of the first major reasons for a decrease in admissions.
A second major cause for the drop is financial turmoil. As the U.S. dollar increases in value, the cost for international students to study in America increases, discouraging families to send their children across the world for a higher education.
Just as it’s more expensive for students to attend out-of-state public colleges than in-state, the cost of attending public institutions in the United States is always higher for foreign students than domestic ones.
The college has tried to alleviate this problem by offering as many scholarships to international students as possible, Vogl said. “It’s an affordable investment for some families, and for others, it’s beyond the pale,” Vogl said. “There are other options that are less expensive, but maybe not [with] the same experience.”
Scael Andriamahefa, a sophomore finance and economics major at PSUC from Madagascar, has experienced an international community in Plattsburgh that is kind and integratable. “Until last semester, I was very reserved and to myself,” Andriamahefa said. Clubs and other organizations on campus allowed him to be more open in a university so far from his home country.
Although he received a good education before coming to the United States, Andriamahefa wanted to pursue something bigger for his international experience, including adjusting to a new culture and learning to be even more open-minded. He concluded that a sense of enchantment could be another reason for international students to study abroad.
“When you hear the United States of America, it sounds big,” Andriamahefa said. “It sparkles a little more.”
In terms of finances, Andriamahefa agrees the cost is too high, saying an international student can pay $30,000 to $40,000 a year to attend an American university. “Money speaks in this world. [Students] are realizing the value of a U.S. education is not worth the price,” Andriamahefa said. “Knowledge is potential power, so if you can’t use that knowledge, you’re basically investing in nothing.”
As a biology major specializing in chiropractics, Dyllan Quan is an international student from the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Quan observed the international community of PSUC as diverse and helpful when homesickness played a role in his college experience abroad.
Quan came to the United States simply for his degree, as his interest in biology was, “not very popular in the Caribbean.” Quan would still pursue a higher education if the cost were too great studying as an international student. “Even if I wasn’t financially able to come here, I still would,” Quan said.
Quan also expresses a fear among international students to come to America. Many of last year’s applicants never completed their applications, Jacqueline Vogl said. In a fast-paced government with strong opposition on both sides, a student coming to study in the U.S. might be bewildered. “People are scared,” Quan said. “Uncertainty is way too high when it comes to [community] acceptance up here.”
However, fear might not stop international students from thriving at PSUC. At the most recent student orientation, Plattsburgh welcomed about 30 new students to campus. Jacqueline Vogl said a dinner was hosted for these students, and members of the faculty and staff were invited to attend and mingle with the students. “The responses [to attend] were so overwhelming that we had to decline some people because we ran out of space in the venue,” Vogl said. “I think that’s telling.”
Although they may be small in number, international students make up a big part of the campus community.
“There’s nothing we can do to change people’s perceptions,” Vogl said. “The only thing we can do is continue to do the work we do now as best we can. If we can continue to do that and have that spirit embedded in all that we do, I think [the international community will] be fine.”
Email Emma Vallelunga at firstname.lastname@example.org