The 2016/17 school year marked the first time in 12 years that higher education institutions (HEIs) in the United States enrolled fewer new international students: Schools saw a 3.3 percent decline over the previous year. Student enrollments and applications are down for the majority of HEIs, and higher education experts expect the low numbers to continue. Steep losses from China and India, the two top sending countries for international students to the U.S., are of particular concern. These significant declines are causing HEIs to reconsider their traditional recruitment strategies and look for new methods to attract international students.
One such method is “backyard” recruiting. A method of recruiting international students already in the U.S., backyard recruiting finds students in high schools, community colleges, or pathway programs. In fact, 72 percent of institutions that WES surveyed earlier this year plan to increase domestic travel for the recruitment of international students for the upcoming recruitment cycle. To shed further light on the practice, WES interviewed a selection of HEI representatives who have experience with backyard recruiting strategies and best practices.
Why Recruit in Your Own Backyard?
Domestic recruitment offers HEIs significant international enrollment potential:
- Nearly 82,000 international students were enrolled in U.S. high schools in 2016; most planned to enroll in a U.S. HEI after graduation.
- Graduate schools have a substantially larger pool of students to recruit from, given the 439,000 international students enrolled at undergraduate institutions in 2017.
- More international students—many of whom plan to transfer to a four-year institution—are enrolling in the more than 50 pathway programs in the U.S. to improve their English.
- Community colleges host more than 8 percent of all international students in the U.S. as of 2017. Research shows, however, that many community college students who have high GPAs are still not transferring to four-year institutions, suggesting that there is room for recruitment to increase.