A new partnership with a university in South Korea is the latest step in YSU’s increasingly successful efforts to increase the number of international students on campus, and the impact is being felt across the community.
Three students from Chungbuk National University, one of 10 flagship Korean national universities, are currently enrolled as undergraduate exchange students at YSU under a new agreement signed last year by the two institutions.
Jef Davis, director of the YSU Center for International Studies and Programs, said partnering with the Korean school has been on his radar for some time. “In Korea, because the Korean language isn’t spoken outside the country, there’s a big push by the government to get more of their students to spend part of their time abroad,” he said.
YSU also has in place partnership and exchange agreements with University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, Yeditepe University in Turkey and Lunghwa University of Science and Technology in Taiwan.
The push has resulted in a steadily increasing international student population on campus, amounting to 247 students this year, up from 135 five years ago. Students come from 42 countries.
A large focus of the effort has been the Middle East, where Davis said more than 80 percent of prospective students are funded by scholarship programs from their governments. “There’s an availability of funds for those students and a great deal of interest in coming to the U.S., so it made sense to focus on that region,” he said.
Currently, 41 percent of YSU’s international students come from the Middle East, more than any other demographic. Twenty-one percent come from South Asia, 15 percent from Sub-Saharan Africa and 8 percent from East Asia. Of the 247 international students, 112 are undergraduates, 87 are graduate students and 48 are enrolled in the English Language Institute at YSU, a non-credit intensive English program for international students. About one in five of the international students are scholar-athletes, and more than half of the graduate students have assistantships.
The impact of the students is significant. In addition to their cultural and academic contributions, international students added an estimated $6 million to the Youngstown area economy in 2011-12, Davis said.
“It certainly adds money to the economy of the area, since international students typically bring their own resources,” said Annette El-Hayek, YSU assistant director of Study Abroad and International Exchanges.
One particular example of the impact, El-Hayek said, is a new taxi service company that started in Austintown because of the demand for transportation from YSU’s international students, many of whom do not drive.
While international student enrollment is up, CISP would like to increase the numbers to around 350 over the next few years, Davis said.
CISP has developed several programs to help international students once they get to campus, including the weekly International Coffee Hour, where as many as 100 students – both international and local – and community members gather to eat and socialize. The event is 2 to 4 p.m. on Fridays at the YWCA on Rayen Avenue. For more information, call 330-941-2336.