Wednesday, July 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Universities try a cultural bridge to lure foreign students

By Richard Pérez-Peña

CORVALLIS, Ore. — As the anthropology instructor engaged her class, a fault line quickly developed. American students answered and asked questions, even offered opinions, but the foreigners — half the class, most from China — sat in silence.

It became clear that some had understood little of the lecture here at Oregon State University and were not ready to be enrolled. In fact, they are not, at least not yet.

Instead, those students fit into a fast-growing and lucrative niche in higher education, of efforts to increase enrollment of foreigners with transitional programs to bridge the cultural divide — often a chasm — between what it means to be a college student in their own countries and in the United States.

Oregon State’s program, a joint venture with a private company, Into University Partnerships, prepares students to move into the university’s mainstream after a year, as Oregon State sophomores.

Colleges want, and increasingly need, more foreign students, not only for high-minded reasons, but also because foreigners generally pay full price. Recruitment from overseas is a rare and increasingly important financial bright spot at a time when state support for higher education has dropped to historic lows, research grants are declining, consumers are objecting to tuition increases, and the supply of college-age Americans is stagnant.

“It is a wonderful source of revenue,” said Sabah U. Randhawa, Oregon State’s provost. “It helps us afford to admit more resident students, offer them more aid, expand the faculty and infrastructure.”

The university’s joint venture, called Into Oregon State, has about 1,400 students, most from China and most studying engineering. Randhawa wants to expand it significantly, in part, he said, “because we want more academic and national diversity, and because engineering is an expensive discipline.”

English is just one of numerous challenges for the foreigners that must be addressed in the transition year. Many say they are used to classes in which only the teachers speak, they do not call on students, students have few choices about what work they will do, and grades are based entirely on a few written exams.

“This tradition of class discussion and activities is very strange to us,” said Yuqi Zhang, a student from China.

A recently arrived South Korean student, Min Jae Lee, said, “In American university, student is free, study attitude is free.”

Even taking notes can be an obstacle in a class taught in English, with frequent digressions that can make it harder to extract the central points. Instructors and students say that in many cultures, students are largely expected to repeat information given by the authorities, and they have to learn Western views of plagiarism and attribution.

Into Oregon State has a 12-person student care team that offers workshops and personal counseling on cultural issues that go far beyond the academic: dating etiquette, notions of personal space and privacy, driving and drinking laws, attitudes toward mental health, body language, and standards of interaction with peers, faculty members or even, if needed, the police.

The most prestigious American schools have no shortage of foreign applicants and have their pick of the best. But most colleges and universities are relatively unknown worldwide and lack the resources to do overseas recruiting. And while the supply of students abroad who want an American education is immense, the number who are actually prepared for it is much more limited.

A number of for-profit companies have stepped into that breach, offering recruitment services or college preparatory boot camps, but a handful offer something more ambitious, working with American colleges to create bridge programs for foreigners, a more common practice in Britain and Australia.

Six years ago, there were no programs of that kind in the United States, but now at least 15 American universities have them, working with companies like Into and Study Group, both based in Britain; Navitas, an Australian company; and Kaplan Inc., with more scheduled to come on line.

The trend of colleges’ hiring private companies for new functions has been underway for decades. Few colleges, for example, run their own dining halls anymore, and many campus bookstores have become outposts of national chains.

“But this is an additional leap because it’s much closer to our core mission,” said Peter N. Stearns, provost of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., which recently announced an agreement with Into. He and other administrators say universities have moved cautiously with this particular strain of outsourcing, worried about ceding control of curriculum or admissions, or watering down either academics or the caliber of the student body.

“Into approached us five years ago, but we decided to build our own program, which in retrospect was probably a mistake,” Stearns said. “We’re pleased with what we’ve got, but it’s small, 125 students. We want to do it on a much bigger scale, and we’ve come to the conclusion that we can’t.”

The private companies have recruitment operations around the world, so they can find students, screen them for quality, direct them to Western schools they might not have heard of, and provide support services on campus. The programs vary in structure, duration and revenue-sharing arrangements. In Into’s program, the universities control the academic side, providing the curriculum and employing the professors, and the students attend for at least a full academic year before enrolling in the university.

At Into Oregon State, some students are just studying English, while others are heading to graduate school, but most intend to enroll as undergraduates. The university decides whether they have performed well enough to make that transition. Most do.

The foreign students take courses that a domestic freshman might take, but with a twist. Irene Rolston, for example, teaches several sections of Comparative Cultures, some with only Oregon State students, and some where about half the students are in the Into program. In the mixed classes, she is helped by language instructors who also work with the foreign students outside class on their English skills.

Students in the Into program pay slightly more than the usual price charged to non-Oregonians, which is roughly $34,000 this year for tuition, fees, room and board. Once they enroll in the university at large, they pay the standard out-of-state charges.

Before the program began, Oregon State had about 900 international students, fewer than half of them undergraduates, out of more than 20,000. That figure has more than doubled and continues to rise. The next goal is a big increase in the number of Oregon State students who study abroad, said Randhawa, the provost.

“I think it’s absolutely critical for folks to know different cultures and understand the world,” he said. “To me, this is more important in the long haul than any discipline they learn.”

Comments

comments

New York Times News Service

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Family enterprise builds a home for music

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Mosquito districts sprays tonight

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Bob Dunning: Poll dancing, direct from Las Vegas

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Health premiums rose significantly in 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Biggest book sale to date opens Friday at Davis library

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Share your love of nature with young wetlands visitors

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Tasting event benefits Yolo Land Trust

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

    Movies in the Park return this fall

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

    Center for Families hosts Summer Carnival

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Vintage car show planned this fall

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis native named a Schweitzer Fellow

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    DHS Class of ’94 set 20th reunion

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Tips, techniques will give you a green thumb

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Grief support focuses on journaling

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    How the Bockler wasp got its name

    By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Kiwanis golf tournament supports local agencies

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Drop off school supplies at Edward Jones offices

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Wine-tastings will benefit YCCC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    UC Davis alumnus hopes to bring amateur radio to Nepal

    By Rachel Uda | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    Yolo County CASA seeks volunteer child advocates

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Recycle old paint cans for free

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Forum

    Not sure which direction to go

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Violence as entertainment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Shocked at vampires story

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Paul Krugman: Corporate artful dodgers

    By Paul Krugman | From Page: A6

    Nicholas Kristof: The world’s coolest places

    By Nicholas Kristof | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Gravel mining affects us all

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    Fiona Buck pushes the limits in para-athletics

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    A’s rally to win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Morse homers but Giants lose 6th straight

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Nightmare on Ballpark Drive for River Cats

    By Will Bellamy | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Schaub settles in as Raiders starting QB

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Brady earns top honors at State Fair

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Smither releases new CD Saturday at The Palms

    By Kate Laddish | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    RootStock kicks off ‘Día de Albariño’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Folk musicians will jam in the Arboretum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    YoloArts to host a state of change exhibit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    UCD professor Andy Jones named Davis’ new poet laureate

    By Rachel Uda | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Molten art on display at Davis Arts Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Calvin D. Rourke

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, July 30, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6