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September 26, 2016 Continuing and Graduate Education For Professionals and Executives

Business schools, colleges wooing foreign students

PHOTO |contributed Denmark native and University of Hartford MBA student Jonas Rasmussen is among the growing number of international students at Connecticut business schools and colleges.

When Jonas Rasmussen, a native of Denmark, arrived at the University of Hartford in 2015 to pursue a master's degree in business administration, it was in many ways the fulfillment of a dream.

“I always wanted to study in the United States,” said Rasmussen, who earned his bachelor's degree in business from Copenhagen Business School two years ago. “In many countries around the world, graduating from a U.S. college is something special.”

These days, more students like Rasmussen are turning their educational dreams into reality on U.S. soil. In fact, according to a 2015 report by the Institute of International Education, the 2014-2015 academic year represented the largest growth in international students in the U.S. in the past 35 years, with more than 974,000 foreign students — undergraduate and graduate — studying in America, a 10 percent increase from the previous year.

Over the past 10 years, the number of international students in the U.S. overall is up 78 percent, with the number of foreign students in the U.S. doubling those in the United Kingdom, the world's second most popular host country.

That influx of students has been trending upwards in Connecticut too, which between 2011 and 2014 has seen its share of international students grow by 27 percent, from just over 9,300 to just shy of 11,900, with 823 foreign students in Hartford-area colleges alone.

Those numbers don't surprise Summer Amorosino, director of graduate studies at the University of Hartford, which enrolls between 20 to 30 new foreign students in its graduate programs each year. The university has students from 62 countries.

“Students are attracted to the quality of the education in the U.S. and [for business students] immersing themselves in our culture and business practices,” Amorosino said, noting the Barney School of Business' reputation as one of the top 5 percent of business programs and the school's proximity to Boston and New York are also big draws.

And international students — in addition to increasing international understanding, global citizenship and expanding cultural diversity in the classroom — also can help school's bottom lines. At the University of Hartford, Amorosino explained, international students — who are ineligible for U.S. federal financial aid — pay the full cost of tuition and fees. The Institute for International Education, in fact, notes that nearly three-quarters of foreign students in the U.S. fund the majority of their educational expenses with funds from outside the U.S. — be it from their government, scholarships or families.

And those outside dollars generate a hefty economic impact in America well beyond the campus gates. Nationally, international students contributed more than $30.5 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015 alone, according to figures from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. In Connecticut, these students generated $462 million in economic activity, including $35.8 million in Hartford County.

The economic and educational benefits of foreign students have placed a more focused emphasis on recruitment for many colleges and universities across the state and the country. At Quinnipiac University in Hamden, digital tools are a primary mechanism for outreach beyond U.S. borders, but Scott Farber, Quinnipiac's dean of graduate admissions, says the school also uses more personal efforts as well.

“We have an international admissions director who travels overseas as part of organized recruiting trips,” Farber said, noting the school pulls its foreign students largely from China and Hungary due to ongoing connections with universities in those countries. “Our business faculty plays an active role in creating new and maintaining existing relationships with their colleagues abroad,” he said.

Relationships are equally important for foreign students, and many colleges have created international centers on campus and tailored orientations to help address the unique needs of these students. At UConn's graduate school of business — where 59 percent of its 109 full-time MBA students hail from foreign countries — international students are offered a two-week orientation to help them adjust.

“We match second-year MBA students, for instance, with first-year students to provide support and mentoring,” said Laine Kingo, senior admissions officer for UConn's MBA program.

That's an important part of the onboarding experience, said UHart's Rasmussen who, now in his second year, served as an international representative at this year's orientation. “The outreach and services [to international students] on college campuses are very important,” Rasmussen said. “It is a great way to meet other students in your situation, who may not know the language or fully understand the [American] culture.”

This coming May, Rasmussen expects to graduate and is looking for jobs both in his native Denmark and the U.S. He knows staying in America presents its share of challenges, but like many international students, he recognizes the abundant business opportunities in the United States.

“I am optimistic and believe you can do much in this country if you have what it takes, plus some will power,” he said.

Wherever his degree takes him, it's a safe bet that more international students will continue to follow in his footsteps.

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