The number of international students at the University of South Florida has increased at an unprecedented pace in the past year, enrollment statistics show.
Over the past six years, records show that USF has been a home away from home for more than 1,000 international students from more than 100 different countries such as China, India and Saudi Arabia.
Data shows that as far back as 2006, USF’s student body has only consisted of approximately 1,300 to 1,400 international students, however, the Department of International Services’ annual enrollment charts show a considerable increase in the number of international students from 2010 to 2011 from 1,465 to 1,745, the highest on record
Glen Besterfield, executive director of INTO USF, cites his office’s intensive international recruiting for the rise.
INTO USF heavily recruits in countries such as Brazil, Peru, China, Qatar, Italy and many more. Besterfield even recently returned from a trip to Russia.
“The draw is natural,” Besterfield said. “Here you have a great university in the United States that is trying to get their brand into the worldwide market place so naturally people will want to come.”
Despite the fact that USF has been making noticeable strides in attracting international students to its various campuses there are critics who still believe the university has a long way to go.
In a 2010-2011 world university rankings analysis conducted by Times Higher Education in partnership with Thomson Reuters, USF ranked regionally in the 301-350 category and received an international outlook score -which was determined by staff, students and research- of a mere 15 out of 100 points.
Outside sources are not the only ones who think that USF has a long way to go when it comes to its international outlook.
Students like 21-year-old Nigerian student, Murewa Olubela, believes departments like INTO USF are not the reason why students are being attracted to the university.
“USF didn’t do any outreach for me,” Olubela said. “I get emails from International Services to do things since I’m here but I don’t know if they reach their target audience. For international students peer recommendations go a long way and I think a reason for the increase is because of that.”
Although there are differing opinions on the reason behind the increase, one thing that cannot be denied is that there has been an increase and USF is definitely trying to hold on to its international students.
“We are beginning an initiative called the BUDI program,” said Aaron Holland, graduate advisor at the Office of Multicultural Affairs, “in which we reach out to international students who are trying to acclimate to the culture here at USF and in the states.”
“We are becoming a great national institution,” Besterfield said. “Next year I wouldn’t be surprised if the number goes over 1900.”