While universities nationwide admitted fewer international graduate students than last year, USC bucked the trend by significantly increasing it’s international graduate admissions rate.
On average, US graduate schools saw a 3 percent decrease in international student admissions — the first decrease since 2004, according to a Council of Graduate Schools report released this month.
Meanwhile, USC, which has the largest international graduate student population of any school in the country, saw a 13.7 percent spike in their admissions of international graduate students. The university currently enrolls graduate students from 114 different countries and international students account for more than a quarter of all graduate students at USC, according to the USC International Student Enrollment Report for 2008-2009.
According to CGS, the nationwide drop in international graduate student admissions comes at a time when application rates are not growing as quickly as they were prior to 2005.
One reason for the slowing growth may be the tough global economy, said Stuart Heiser, manager of government relations and external affairs for CGS. Heiser said some international students may be finding it difficult to afford undergraduate education in their home countries, so graduate education is no longer an option for them.
The largest drop in admissions to US graduate schools — 16 percent — occurred in students from India and South Korea, where finding loans has become increasingly difficult for prospective students, Heiser said.
Some countries, however, were immune to the drop. Graduate applications from China, for example, were up 14 percent from last year and admissions rates went up 13 percent.
Chansuk Jung, a first-year graduate student from South Korea, said he thinks the global economy isn’t affecting USC because students who apply to the university aren’t necessarily worried about finances.
He said he came to USC because he wanted to be in California, where a large percentage of Chinese and South Koreans who move to the US end up living. Jung said he was familiar with the university’s reputation, before he came to the US.
Katharine Harrington, the USC dean of admissions and financial aid, said she thought the importance the university has placed on bettering its
international presence has helped admissions rates continue to rise in light of the national drop.
“[The university] has made a significant commitment to maintaining an international presence,” Harrington said.
Harrington cited the university’s international offices as an example. Currently, USC has offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mexico and Shanghai, with two more offices — one in India and one in South Korea — set to open later this academic year, according to a press release.
Krati Ahuja, a first-year graduate student from India studying computer science, said she came to USC because of its reputation.
“The school of engineering is very well-known and very reputable,” she said.
Jean Morrison, vice provost for academic affairs and graduate programs, said she thinks one possibility for the drop in admissions nationwide may be because of competition from graduate schools in other countries that have started recruiting aggressively for international students.
But USC, Morrison said, has always outperformed other US universities in going after the best international students. She said she thinks that’s why its international admissions rates continued to rise.
“It’s a competitive market, and I think we have the structures in place to compete very effectively,” she said.