Academic journal article College and University

Higher Education Preparation and DECISION-MAKING TRENDS among International Students

Academic journal article College and University

Higher Education Preparation and DECISION-MAKING TRENDS among International Students

Article excerpt

Today, the United States of America has the highest international student enrollment (819,644 students in 2012-1 3) of any nation, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada (Open Doors 2013). Students around the world view the United States as a land of opportunity. Their choices to attend u.S. higher education institutions are associated with a wide range of factors, including scholarships and other financial assistance, relatives, and bilateral exchange programs between home and host universities (Kolster 2014, To et al. 2014). Students from China (28.7%), India (11.8%), and South Korea (8.6%) dominate international student enrollment in the United States, but emerging trends show increasing enrollment by students from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Mexico, and Brazil (Open Doors 2013).

The majority of international students attend u.S. colleges and universities in California (111,379), New York (88,250), Texas (62,923), Massachusetts (46,486), Illinois (39,132), and Pennsylvania (37,280) (Open Doors 2013). (Research does not reveal the precise factors that limit international students' attendance at institutions in other states.) U.S. colleges and universities have improved the resources they make available to international students- for example, English as a Second Language (esl) programs specifically for Chinese and Saudi Arabian students (World Education Services 2012).

International exchange programs between U.S. universities and those in foreign countries are another recent trend. Given budget cuts and increasing competition, U.S. institutions "compete hard for talented and self-funded students" (World Education Services 2012).

Despite increasing international enrollments in u.S. postsecondary education, there are challenges related to cost, distance, visa complexity, and competition for students and colleges (Marklein 2011). The potential to recruit more international students exists, but U.S. institutions have not established themselves as leaders among their competitors: A few universities in the United Kingdom and Australia (e.g., the University of Buckingham, Central Queensland University) have international student populations that constitute more than 50 percent of their total enrollment. According to the World Education Services (2012), effective recruitment practices-including recruiting agents and liberal immigration policies for visas and traveling-are the primary causes of high enrollment at these institutions.

The purpose of this paper is to examine how international students obtain information about their chosen programs of study while in their home countries; what fac- tors motivate them to enroll at u.S. institutions; and what challenges they encounter as they prepare to study abroad.


Push and Pull Factors

International students choose particular programs and locations in the United States for a variety of reasons, including relationships with other students, family and peer influences, local and national policies, and other motivational factors.

Essentially, "push" and "pull" factors influence international students' decisions related to studying overseas. The push factors "operate within the source country and initiate a student's decision to undertake international study" while the pull factors "operate within a host country to make that country relatively attractive to international students" (Mazzarol and Soutar 2002, p. 82).

"Push" factors include the availability of financial aid, high-quality education, cutting-edge educational and research facilities, the opportunity to gain international experience, and a favorable environment for improving English language skills (González et al. 2011, Rounsaville 2011, Wilkins & Huisman 2010). "Pull" factors include the quality of education, high institutional rankings, better employment prospects, opportunity for improving English-language skills, and post-study opportunities (Rounsaville 2011, To et al. …

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