Boise State experienced a $5 million revenue loss during the 2016 to 2017 academic year due to a total decrease of 232 full fee paying non-resident students—a majority of which are international students—according to Ken Kline, the assistant vice president of the Office of Budget and Planning.
From Fall 2015 to Fall 2016, the number of students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait went from 562 to 430, according to Jim Anderson, the associate vice president of Enrollment Services. Students from these two countries make up a majority of the full fee paying international students. All of these students are sponsored by their respective country’s government.
The reasons for this decrease in international student enrollment—primarily from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—include the changing geopolitical climate, adjustments to the government sponsored programs, certain academic policies at Boise State and the overall culture of campus.
“This is new. We can broaden where we recruit international students from, so it’s not just dependent on one or two countries for so many students,” Kline said. “There’s a risk (in only recruiting from two countries), which is why you don’t do it.”
According to Kline, the projected loss of non-resident students for the 2017 to 2018 academic year is 140 students, which would result in an $8 million loss in revenue over two years.
Reasons for the loss
According to Anderson, the combination of the economies in the Middle East, changes made to the government sponsored programs and Boise State’s higher standards for international students all fed into this decrease.
“Geopolitical (climates) and economies are hard things to guess and outsmart,” Anderson said. “We knew that some of the climate in the world was changing. We were forecasting that international students were going to decrease.”
Sophomore finance major Ali Almutairi—who is one of the government sponsored students from Kuwait—believed there may be other factors contributing to this drastic decline in international students.
“The reason why (less students are attending), is because they don’t feel like they belong to Boise State, they don’t have that feeling,” Almutairi said. “I don’t think Boise State cares anymore about international students, so that is one of the reasons why people transfer who have the ability.”
According to Almutairi, students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have an easier time transferring because they are sponsored by their government. Other international students do not have the same freedom.
“There’s no money and no support for international students here. They focus on other things than us,” Almutairi said.
A couple of specific issues Almutairi brought up were the relocation of the International Student Services offices, and the lack of a place for Muslims to worship.
“I tried multiple times to make a meeting with multiple departments for international students and the challenges they face,” Almutairi said. “Some departments came to this meeting and helped us, but some of them refused. International students should be treated just like any other student.”
Wala Alzawad is a senior pre-med and human biology major from Saudi Arabia. She has loved living in Boise because of the size and the people, but shares similar concerns as Almutairi.
“Here it’s kind of difficult for students who come from different cultures and countries to feel like they are going to stay here on campus,” Alzawad said. “There are a lot of problems. I’m the president of the Saudi Club and I face a lot of problems—especially in reserving rooms for prayer.”
Both Alzawad and Almutairi believe these problems have led to students not feeling comfortable on campus and wanting to transfer.
A potential solution
Gonzalo Bruce is the new assistant provost for global education who has been tasked with overseeing the new Center for Global Education.
This center was created about a year ago to consolidate all of the international student services and study abroad opportunities under one roof.
“Our goal is to double the size of our international student population in the next five years— but hopefully in the long range—we would like to get to where 10 percent of the population are international students, so there will be more of a global environment on the campus,” Bruce said.
According to Bruce, this new center will also be working to address the retention rate of students to ensure international students are having a good experience throughout their time at Boise State.
“The things that are in our control—that we need to look at—are system based. How can we report that international students are having a good experience here at Boise State, and what else can we do to make Boise State increasingly more friendly?” Bruce said.
Both Alzawad and Almutairi are hopeful that international students will become more of a priority at Boise State in the future.
“Boise State doesn’t realize the value of international students yet and how diversity can affect the reputation of the university,” Almutairi said.