For the ninth straight year, USC enrolled more international students than any other university in the United States, according to the annual Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education.
Approximately 8,000 USC international students were recorded last year. Though this achievement showcases USC’s diversity and enhances the overall student experience for both foreign and domestic students, there is a much larger end-goal beneath the surface.
USC’s biggest goal must be giving these international students incentives to stay in the United States beyond graduation — a crucial academic and economic mission during our generation. American institutions are slipping in the rankings — in college graduation rates, in fields such as math and science and in higher education opportunities.
This is a concern not to be taken lightly. In a recent address to the University of Texas at Austin, President Barack Obama said, “We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today, they will out-compete us tomorrow.”
Despite a drop in the rankings, one thing going for U.S. academia is that it still has the most reputable universities on the globe. And as our global economy becomes more intertwined, it isn’t enough to open our doors to American students only. Clearly, this is a new age in which our nation’s elite universities are not only competing with each other but also competing with other universities in the world to rein in top-caliber students.
So far, our own universities are proving to be more than up to the challenge, as the United States hosts more international students than any other country.
On our own campus, we have the ability to interact with students from all over the world. Whether in the classroom, in student organizations, in Greek life or in internships, the opportunities for knowledge outside of our own culture are vast.
“International students from more than 110 different countries bring a wealth of experiences and viewpoints to our campus,” said Tony Tambascia, associate dean of student affairs.
As USC leads the way in attracting international students, it must also be the university to go to the next step — giving foreign students every reason to stay in the United States and contribute their skills to the American workforce.
Some might see education abroad from a different angle. “A global education prepares them [international students] to become leaders in their own countries and societies,” said Ann Stock, assistant secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs, in a statement.
Universities such as USC, which employs thousands of people and has an impact on nearly every aspect of economic development in Los Angeles, should play a role in influencing our international students beyond the four short years of college.
According to the report, the State Department has successfully partnered with U.S. universities to attract international students to an American college education.
During these tough economic times, when our government is struggling to reform our education system’s shortcomings, the university administration will need to step up and meet the challenge of retaining our international students with innovation. In research support, our university and government can collaborate to find new ways to sponsor unique interdisciplinary projects in the emerging fields of technology and applied sciences.
But above all, the relationships that international students develop with other students and colleagues can convince them to forever remain entrenched in the university and in our outside community.
“The bonds our students form — and the insights they gain — remain with them for life,” President C. L. Max Nikias has said.
Let our education, diplomacy and business development coincide to attract students from the entire world while our universities help to restore our global standing.
Stephen Zelezny is a sophomore majoring in public relations. His column, “USC on the Move,” runs Thursdays.