What’s spurring Webster’s global enrollment?

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Webster Groves is becoming home to a slew of world travelers. 

Graphic by Kenzie Akins.

The influx of international presence in Webster Groves is due, in part, to record-breaking numbers of international student enrollment at Webster University.

According to student enrollment data presented by the National Center for Education Statistics, the upward trend of international exchange students attending Webster University’s main campus started in 2014. Since then, international enrollment numbers have been on a continuous rise, particularly within graduate programs at Webster.

Sam Chaudhuri, assistant vice president of International Programs at Webster University, has watched this growth in international student presence persist for several years.

“We are seeing a very steady interest in international programs,” Chaudhuri said. “Last year, we recruited somewhere around 265 international students. Since June 1 of last year, we enrolled over 1,100 new international students.”

This flourishing number of international students attending Webster University in the United States comes in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown, which restricted international travel and study abroad opportunities. International students were unable to even enter the process of receiving a student visa to attend university in the U.S. 

Despite the obstacles the pandemic presented to international college students, Webster University still has received high international application rates in recent years. 

“In the last couple of years, when you talk about new students, we have to talk about a baseline. We do not want to take COVID-19 period as a benchmark. If we look at the pre-COVID data, we were recruiting somewhere around 250 to 300 international students a year. During COVID-19, we could not recruit anyone to come to the United States,” Chaudhuri said. “Even in 2021, the number of applicants was still going up. The embassy would not allow them to come. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not hit, we would have still seen a rise.”

The International Recruitment Services Department engages in recruiting students from all across the globe both on and off Webster international campuses. International students are approached and presented with information regarding Webster University academics in the U.S. 

Webster University allocates focus to promoting a U.S. education in foreign countries when trying to maintain and grow its international student base. Chaudhuri and the International Recruitment Services Department actively determine which academic programs are most in-demand internationally and promote those programs specifically when campaigning for international student enrollment. 

“STEM-designated programs have a much larger market share internationally than other programs. What I did as a strategy was identify those programs and present those to our students and recruits and explain why the programs are good for them.” Chaudhuri said, “Positive word of mouth, inviting destinations and a conscious effort to promote the programs which have the highest demand in international markets is how we increase international student enrollment.”

Through promotional strategies such as these, compounded with years of gained notoriety and foreign attention, Webster University is able to attract students like Nana Martin. She is a 19-year-old transfer student from Webster’s Accra, Ghana campus. 

Martin heard about Webster Ghana through promotion in her secondary schooling. 

At Webster Ghana, she was presented with the resources and opportunity to study in the U.S. Webster’s strategic promotion is what brought her attention to the idea of studying on an American campus.

“I just thought, ‘what’s the point of having an American passport if you don’t get an American education?’ My mother was pressuring me to get an American education. I wanted the experience. I wanted to be independent and take care of myself somewhere new,” Martin said. “I actually saw the [study abroad] program on a flier in Ghana.”

There are also multicultural resources on campus to incentivize international attendance and aid international students who are currently studying in the U.S. These include Webster University’s investment into internationally sought-after academic programs, as well as interpersonal assimilation activities. 

Associate dean of students at Webster’s Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs Department, Colette Cummings, aims to promote international student inclusion within the American campus’ student body.

“We have increased our programming in the Walker School of Business & Technology, so we have sought-after programs like data analytics and information technology management that students really want to be engaged in,” Cummings said. “We have a program called Culture Chat where we try to integrate American students and international students together. Students show up, and we have really good conversations about what’s the difference between cultures.”

When asked why international outreach and multicultural resources are a priority, Cummings defined the mission that Webster University abides by.

“Part of the mission of our institution is to serve the underserved. A part of that mission is to go out and take this American-style education to the world. Having campuses all over the globe is part of that, and also making sure that students feel comfortable coming to the states,” Cummings said.

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Baird McDaniel
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