International students population constant for more than a decade
Fewer UNLV-supported, more outside-funded scholars on the roll in fall 2010
The mantra goes: Budget cuts mean higher student fees, which mean lower value and less enrollment.
But one group is thriving at UNLV, even though their costs are higher than anyone else’s.
“The number of international students has stayed the same for the past 11 years,” said Kristen Young, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS).
In fall 2010, 1,355 international students — five percent of the school’s student population — attended UNLV, hailing from 73 different countries.
Young described international students as individuals who have temporarily entered the U.S. with a student visa to study.
However, the number of international scholars — those who come to UNLV to research and collaborate with other researchers or to teach — fluctuates depending on the university’s budget and these scholars’ access to outside funds.
Ninety-four scholars, representing 33 countries, called UNLV home last semester.
“If UNLV is subject to a budget cut, there is a decline in the number of international scholars,” Young said.
But some use another funding option.
“Scholars can be funded by their home country’s government and universities,” Young said.
And the number of scholars at UNLV funded by those sources is on the rise.
The cost of attending UNLV as an international student is more than four times the cost of attending as a Nevada resident and about $1,000 per semester more than the cost for out-of-state domestic students who are in graduate and undergraduate programs.
According to the Bursar’s Office’s registration fee calculator, an undergraduate resident taking 12 credits a semester will pay $2,216 per term and a non-resident domestic student will pay $8,816 for enrollment in 12 credits, after the addition of a $6,645 non-resident fee.
Because of an international student fee of $145 and a required health insurance fee of $602, a student would pay $9,608 if he or she was an international student.
An undergraduate international student taking 12 credits a semester pays approximately $9,608 per term.
Enrollment in 12 credits would cost $3,021 for a resident graduate student, $9,666 for a non-resident and $10,413 for an international student.
Enrollment in 12 credits as a resident student at the William S. Boyd School of Law would cost $9,408. This cost rises to $15,408 for non-resident students and $16,155 for international students for the same courses.
Jami Vallesteros, an active member of the International Council, explained that despite the challenges, international students keep coming to UNLV because of the school’s internationally renowned programs.
“UNLV sees a continuing flow of international students because of its international top-ranking hotel program as well as its engineering program and law school,” Vallesteros said.
The William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration houses 669 international students — the largest concentration at UNLV.
“The reason why hotel administration is so popular is because many casinos and resorts are being opened in Eastern countries such as Korea and China,” Young said. “UNLV is known for its hotel program.”
Others, especially graduate students, come to UNLV to engage in the groundbreaking research conducted in the college of sciences and the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering.
But more undergraduates attend UNLV on student visas than do graduate students — a ratio of 7 to 3.
Young explained that enrollment in the hotel college plays a big role in this figure.
“These individuals only need a bachelor’s degree in order to work in a hotel overseas,” she said.
Plus, graduate courses cost more than their 100- to 400-level counterparts and the expenses add up fast.
Plus, she said, going to school in Las Vegas is an attractive prospect.
“I think it’s a simple matter of pure recognition and great climate,” she said. “Las Vegas is world famous and so is our hotel college.”
Young said international graduate students hope to land assistantships — positions that usually pay 80 percent of their UNLV fees — and that without that funding, the prospect of paying for a graduate degree can be daunting.
But Young said that many international students apply to UNLV because of difficulties they face in their home countries.
“It is more challenging to get into colleges in Asia,” she said, as an example.
Approximately two-thirds of the international students on campus — 888 in total — are from countries in Asia.
“I believe only a third of students who want to go to college [in the average Asian country] get into college,” Young said. “Since it is much more difficult to attend college in their home country, students choose to come here.”
The transition is not always easy, as students and scholars learn to adapt to American academic culture and often to new language and customs.
But Young said that the process is simplified for many international Rebels.
“For scholars, it can be quite easy to become comfortable with campus life because they learn how to adapt from their department,” she said. “International students learn to assimilate by living on campus, and in most [cases] these students have attended a U.S. community college, so they’re pretty accustomed to the American way of living once they walk through our door.”
Vallesteros said international students can also join groups like the International Council in order to make acquaintances with other students like themselves.
“The students are invited to an international student luncheon where they meet fellow international students,” he said. “It gives them a chance to form bonds and friendships with other students.”
Vallesteros sees groups targeted to UNLV’s international contingent as vital to the health of the campus community.
“It is important for international students and scholars to keep coming because it contributes to UNLV’s cultural diversity and encourages an exchange of different perspectives on campus,” he said.
And he thinks he understands at least one reason these students and scholars continue flocking to UNLV.
“We have some things going for us,” Vallesteros said. “We are a hospitable college.”
Julie Ann Formoso reports on diversity and inclusion for The Rebel Yell. Contact her at [email protected]