University News

2012 caps decade of international enrollment growth

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2012

The class of 2016 includes 221 international students from 57 countries. Though this distribution does not mark any dramatic shift from last year, the gradual shift in international student demographics over the past decade has been drastic – 10 years ago, the freshman class only included 127 international students from 37 nations. 

While the overall applicant pool has doubled in the last decade, the international applicant pool has tripled, said Jim Miller ’73, dean of admission. 

“The percentage of the class who are international passport holders has doubled – from about 6 percent 10 years ago, to 12 percent this year. That’s a big change, and it reflects the increase in breadth and quality of the international pool,” Miller said, adding that the quality of international applications is “remarkably high.”

The overall growth in international applicants is not Brown-specific, but is rather a trend that has affected many American universities in recent years, Miller said. “U.S. universities, particularly top U.S. universities, have become very attractive options and opportunities for the best students around the world,” he said.

Ho Jun Yang ’16 was born in South Korea but grew up and went to high school in Brazil. He chose a university in the United States because “there were more opportunities here,” he said, adding that “there is an element of prestige that I do want to capitalize on.”

Both Yang and Amia Oberai ’16, who hails from Singapore, said they wanted to learn in a new environment. “I lived (in Singapore) for so long, and it’s a really small country, so I wanted to explore something different,” Oberai said.

Oberai also cited the flexibility of American universities as a reason for applying. Unlike in other countries, students in the United States do not have to enter college with a career track or even a fixed path of study in mind.

In addition to a general growing international applicant pool, the past decade has seen a demographic shift in the nationalities of the international pool. Brown’s Admission Office has made a commitment to spend more time recruiting internationally – in part due to former president Ruth Simmons’ focus on internationalization – and has targeted China, Singapore, South Korea and Brazil in particular, Miller said. 

The focus on these regions has led to a significant increase in the number of students from these countries. Ten years ago, there were only nine students in the freshman class from China, and the class of 2016 has 36. The number of applications from China went from 130 to 1,075 in the past decade. 

Similarly, places like Brazil and Bulgaria were either minimally or not represented 10 years ago, while the class of 2016 has five students from Brazil and four from Bulgaria. In the last decade, Singapore rose from not having a place on the list of top 10 countries represented to now being sixth on that list.

The admission office’s targeted efforts are due to the different style of recruitment necessary for international applications. While the office relies on emails, mailed pamphlets and large events for domestic recruiting, international recruiting requires a more individualized approach, Miller said. 

The admission office must “pick and choose” where it will focus its energy and resources during the international recruitment process, and it chooses new countries every three to five years, Miller said. 

The office considers many factors when choosing these nations, he added. “Brazil is a place with a booming economy and a significant commitment to growth in education, so it’s a place where we hadn’t had much of a presence,” Miller said. “We are kind of going where the students are, where the interest is, where the resources are educationally to bring students here.”

Brazil’s growing economy is also responsible for the country’s heightened interest in American universities, Yang said. Accompanying the surge of businesses is the desire to “send lots of students out so they can get a global education that they can bring back to Brazil to help improve infrastructure,” he said. 

To recruit students, admissions officers visit certain schools in the countries they have chosen to focus on, Miller said, and many international students also hear about Brown through word of mouth. 

“You get a couple of students, and they have a really good experience and go back and tell their schools and friends,” Miller said. 

Oberai said word of mouth is one of the reasons for the popularity of American universities in Singapore. “We get good feedback from people going to college in the U.S.,” she said. 

The admission office also sends faculty abroad to visit high schools and talk to students about applying to Brown, Miller said. 

This trend of international interest in U.S. universities will continue, he added. “U.S. universities, particularly top universities, have become very attractive options and opportunities for the best students around the word,” he said. “I think that is certainly to our benefit.”

  • Anonymous

    One of the countries on that list of top 9 contains a disproportionate number of wholesale fabrication of high school records, SAT scores, applications essays written for them by unethical educational counselors, and lies about family financial situations (in order to get needs-based financial aid). There is one other country outside of that list of top 9 which also contains a disproportionate number of such cheaters. Brown University admissions office and Dean of College office know about this, but have not used the college codes of conduct in their (in)action. President Paxson, welcome to Brown.

  • Anonymous

    The above comment has been widely reported and should be addressed in any accounting of applications. This happens all the time in this paper, the reporter either has zero knowledge of the wider implications of his article or has chosen to remain silent, which is maybe worse. Also, it seems obvious that many countries one would expect are not represented much at all in the stats, so there are few if any Germans, French, and other Europeans represented. I assume this has nothing to do with the quality of applicants and everything to do with money. All foreign students, I believe, pay full tuition, so students where colleges can be excellent and mostly free — as in European countries — will not come to Brown. But this also skews who does come here. So, we get the millionaire kids from China or, worse, party official kids from China, say. And try talking to any of these people about, say, Tibet, and you will realize there is suddenly a palpable chill in the silent air. Of course, these kids are also presented as tech wonders, politically neutral, or at least getting rid of conservative jocks, but this is actually not the case. The case is they add to an international elitism at Brown which hides under a liberal facade.

  • Anonymous

    Y’all please realize this: many foreign students get full financial aid or nearly full financial aid packages. Some of them, especially from two countries which I alluded to, fabricate their families’ financial situation in the aid applications. They succeeded in conning Brown. Some Deans have noticed that these kids’ capabilities do not jive with those of kids who applied under same names. But the Deans do nothing about it. They are very irresponsible here at Brown.