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Funding Carleton’s Rising International Community

<athiska Srinivasa ’16 arrived at Carleton two years ago from Banglore, India, having never visited Minnesota, yet she was excited by her guidance counselor’s description of Carleton’s myriad academic opportunities and tight-knit community.

“Although my decision was not supplemented with a lot of background information at the time, it worked out so wonderfully and I cannot imagine myself anywhere else,” she said.

Srinivasa is among the nine percent of students at Carleton, many of whom have never visited campus, who hail from outside the United States.
In the last two decades, Carleton’s international student community has increased from eight percent. In addition, the current Strategic Plan suggests that Carleton will increase its international-student community to 12 percent.

Charlie Cogan ’82, Associate Dean and Director of International Recruitment, stressed that to increase the international-student community to 12 percent, it would be useful to have more financial aid for international students.

For instance, Carleton had 1,300 international student applications this year, 900 of whom asked for financial or international students, Carleton might be unable to attract the international students it accepts.

“Hopefully, the future capital campaign will give us the resources we need to fulfill the Strategic Plan,” Cogan said.
History of International Student Community

Prior to the 1990s, Carleton had few international students because the Office of Admissions focused its resources on expanding the diversity of its domestic applicant pool.

In the 1990s, the Office of Admissions concentrated its efforts on attracting international students by reinstating the Kellogg Scholarship and by applying for and receiving five million dollars from the Starr Foundation. Together, these two scholarships allowed Carleton to accept 15 to 20 additional international students annually, doubling its international student community in a few years.

Furthermore, during the last comprehensive campaign, Carleton raised 15 million dollars for international scholarships.

Currently, Carleton is ranked in the middle of the top 25 schools in terms of scholarships for international students. “Even if we think our financial aid for international students is minimal, it’s better than many of our peer institutions,” Cogan said.

However, fifteen years ago, the majority of Carleton’s international students came on scholarship, but now, approximately 60 percent are full paying. Domestically, 53 percent of students do not apply for financial aid. Cogan explained that this discrepancy is due in part to the fact that all of the financial aid international students receive comes from Carleton, whereas domestic students can receive federal grants in addition to money from Carleton.

“If we want to continue to maintain socio-economic diversity internationally as well as domestically, we will need to work consistently to build our endowed financial aid funds,” he said.

Carleton’s Increasing Popularity

In recent years, U.S. colleges have become more popular among international students because people are realizing that technology will never render a liberal arts education irrelevant, according to Cogan. “It’s funny because sometimes you can go to places in the United States and talk about liberal arts and it has less of an impact than it does internationally,” Cogan said.

Similarly, Ruyi Shen’17, an international student from China, said “I think the best part about a liberal arts education is that we don’t have to decide a major right when we arrive like you have to in European and Chinese schools. All of Carleton’s classes are the basis for all future studies whereas in China, people just study one thing and get really good at that one thing.”

In addition, Asian universities are beginning to offer a liberal arts education. “This is pushing the profile of liberal arts colleges higher, giving liberal arts colleges more respect,” according to Cogan.

Carleton’s increasing popularity among international students is also due in part to Carleton’s recruitment efforts. For instance, Carleton has been traveling to Asia for many years, as well as more recently to Latin America, Europe, and Africa.

Further, when alumni from a country have a good experience, they spread the word, increasing the number of applicants from that area. For instance, Shen came to Carleton because “I talked to seniors from my city who love Carleton and who are like me, so I knew that if they liked it, I would like it here. In addition, Carleton offered me the most financial aid of any of the schools I applied to.”

Likewise, Cogan said, “We would not have the impact we have internationally without financial aid.”

Beyond admissions and financial aid, Carleton attracts international students because of its strong academics, according to Cogan. For instance, some governments give students money to study math and science in the United States. In addition, Carleton offers subjects that are not as strong in other countries such as psychology and anthropology.

For example, Srinivasa said, “I spent the majority of my schooling years in India, and it was quite different from the education that I am currently receiving at Carleton. For one, the number of academic options in India are quite limited and the humanities get the short end of the stick in terms of funding in most institutions. There are very set paths that students have to follow and there is not a lot of room for exploration.”

Changes to Academic Programs

As a result of the increase in international students, Carleton created the Cross-Cultural Studies Concentration, which used to be a requirement for students who received Starr Foundation funding. A core class for this concentration is “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” which French Professor Éva Posfay teaches. This course explores world literature and students’ experiences living in other countries and culminates in a visual exposition.

Like the Cross Cultural Studies Concentration, International Student Programs was formed when Carleton received Starr Foundation funding in 1999.
In 2009, International Student Programs merged with the Office of Intercultural Life to strengthen the two programs. Together, these two programs became the Office of Intercultural and International Life (OIIL), which is a support service for international and intercultural students. 

Support offered directly to international students include International Students Orientation (ISO), the Host Family Program, advice on immigration policies and visas and tax help sessions. International students are also provided peer mentoring, which supports both international and intercultural students.

Beyond these services, Carleton does not offer programs specifically for international students, such as ESL classes.

Expanding Campus Conversation

Having international students at Carleton allows for people to “enrich each other’s learning experience by bringing to the fore their respective cultural uniqueness,” Posfay said. “An increase in international students has meant for me more diversified classroom and, therefore, more opportunities for expanding horizons—for students and me alike.”

Like Posfay, OIIL Director Joy Kluttz and OIIL Associate Director Luyen Phan see the increase in international students at Carleton as a way for the college community to grow. “It increases diversity and creates a better experience for everyone,” Phan said.

Kluttz said, “It is great to be at an institution where we can participant in and gain a better understanding of our global culture, which is harder to do if you have a homogenous campus. It allows us to engage in cross-cultural learning through the process of learning about someone different from yourself.”

Likewise, Srinivasa said, “There is no downside to having people from different backgrounds and upbringings on a college campus. However, the pros of having international students at Carleton is that there is a great opportunity for cultural and intellectual exchange. These students are bringing in new ideas and new perspectives, and I think this serves as a wonderful way to expand one’s knowledge base.”

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