Group hopes to increase state international enrollment

Kristen Snyder

WKU has joined other Kentucky universities in trying to boost international enrollment across the state.

Education Kentucky, a group representing 16 state colleges and universities, recently met at WKU to discuss how it could promote Kentucky schools as a destination for international students, according to a university press release.

Only 2 percent of the overall university student population in Kentucky is international, according to the release.

Education Kentucky hopes to increase that number to 3 percent.

Currently, Kentucky has about 5,000 international students. The group hopes to raise that number to about 8,000, but it could take between one and three years to accomplish this goal, Education Kentucky President Ted Farrell said.

“International students contribute financially, but more importantly, they help American students form bonds with people from other countries,” Farrell said. “In our current globalized world, this is important not only for economic development, but also for cultural understanding.”

Kentucky is ranked 33rd among the states in international enrollment, said Raza Tiwana, WKU’s assistant director of International Admissions.

Although Kentucky overall could use a boost in international students, WKU is second in the state for international enrollment, Tiwana said.

Tiwana has traveled all over the world to recruit students, including Turkey, Dubai, India and Canada.

“We have been growing the past five years,” Tiwana said. “But there is always room for improvement. We want to be number one in the state.”

WKU’s international enrollment is close to 600 students this semester, Tiwana said. Officials hope to reach 1,000 students a semester in the next four to five years.

The lack of international students is a “missed opportunity” for Kentucky universities and students, Farrell said.

The group hopes to attract international students by teaming up with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of State and the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, which have offices all over the world, including Beijing, Tokyo and Guadalajara.

Education Kentucky also plans to incorporate a lot of Internet aid.

They are currently developing an interactive website to welcome international students. The internet-based recruitment should begin this semester, Farrell said.

“It’s a big project, but everyone knows how important it is,” Farrell said. “We’re excited about bringing in interesting and dynamic new students.”