With a scholarship through the Saudi Arabian king, more Saudi students come to Webster.
By recruiting globally, Webster draws more international students to St. Louis
Kirstin Kahaloa, assistant director of international student affairs, has little time to sight-see as she travels overseas to recruit potential Webster university students.
Kahaloa spent three weeks in September visiting five different countries and, due to costs, she said recruiters always travel alone. However, Kahaloa said she never feels alone.
“While you are traveling, you see many of the same recruiters throughout the whole trip,” shesaid.
Before going abroad, Kahaloa must go through cultural and language admissions training. She said she encounters many different academic requirements in each country. She must pay close attention to what transcripts look like, the different grading systems and any other education standard that may vary from place to place. Kahaloa has to know a basic amount of the native language of the country she is in, even if she only uses it for a day and a half.
Kahaloa said the U.S. Government facilitates the recruitment process for many American colleges. She said the U.S. Government sponsors college fairs in order to make it easier for recruiters to visit. Without governmental assistance coordinating, it would not have been possible for her to visit nine cities in three weeks.
According to NAFSA: Association for International Educators, international students bring in about $20 billion to the U. S. economy by studying in American schools.
Kahaloa said Education U.S.A., a group sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, also plays a role in bringing international students to the U.S. The department, which has offices all over the world, helps students in other countries find out about U.S. colleges. The local chapters often help students translate their transcripts or explain what testing is needed to apply to certain American schools.
Currently, Kahaloa said she is focusing on recruiting from Central and South America and Asia, though the specific countries and cities may vary from year to year. In the spring 2011 semester, Kahaloa went to South Korea, China, Vietnam and Malaysia. Even when recruiting extensively, Kahaloa said the objective is not quantity.
“We try to find students with the right fit,” Kahaloa said.
She said recruiters look for students who are going to be content once they get here.
“It is in no one’s best interest to get a student to come to Webster who is going to want to transfer, or who’s going to do poorly because he or she isn’t comfortable,” Kahaloa said.
Though the university recruits around the globe, there are factors that cause an increase in a certain group of international students over others. The growth of Saudi Arabian students at Webster is linked to a Saudi Arabian government supported scholarship program launched in 2005. Though the program was launched 6 years ago, Webster wasn’t on the approved colleges list until 2009.
Once Webster University was on the list of approved schools, the first Saudi student was admitted in 2009. By spring semester that year, more students were admitted.
While back home in Saudi Arabia, Raed Alaskar, an information management major, had connections to Webster before he even considered coming. A friend of Alaskar’s knew Kahaloa from Evansville, Ind. where she used to work with newly incoming Saudi students.
“She helped me a lot,” Alaskar said. “I liked Webster because of her.”
Kahaloa said Webster is drawing more Saudi Arabian students than ever before. For every application from another country, there are five from Saudi Arabia.
“I’ve gotten very used to looking at Saudi transcripts,” Kahaloa said.
Kahaloa said that by next year, Webster could be seeing an increase in Indonesian students. The country’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, received a master’s degree in business management from Webster in 1991 and is working on a business and education partnership with the United States.
Kahaloa said she will begin recruiting in Indonesia this upcoming spring and fall and continue doing so for the next few years.