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International recruiting partnership begins

Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:55 PM

HUNTINGTON -- More than 60 international student recruiters from about 20 counties arrived on Marshall University's campus Thursday morning, signaling the beginning of a partnership with INTO University Partners.

A signing ceremony was held in Marshall University Foundation Hall between Marshall President Stephen Kopp and the chairman of INTO, Andrew Colin. Both expressed excitement to finally reach an agreement after about a two-year process that included several months of intense negotiations leading up to the Marshall Board of Governors approving the 30-year deal early last month.

"We're signing an agreement that will literally transform Marshall University," Kopp said.

It is estimated that as many as 200 international students will be recruited to Marshall for the fall of 2013 to start their undergraduate careers. And the recruiters who are in town to learn about Marshall, Huntington and West Virginia will be working to ensure there is a new crop of students coming to campus each year going forward.

"We are going to work to make Marshall an even more famous university in the years to come," Colin said. "The fruits of our labor are now in front of us."

Colin said there are 4 million students worldwide who travel to other countries for higher education. And, he said, that is expected to double by 2025. He emphasized the need for universities, particularly public ones, to embrace the change to an even broader degree than they already are.

West Virginia's higher education institutions already are seeing an influx, as reported in a study by the nonprofit Institute of International Education released earlier this week. It showed that international enrollment in West Virginia colleges and universities has grown 8.4 percent in the span of a year to 2,708, which ranks 43rd in the nation.

West Virginia University in Morgantown had the most international students at 1,744. Marshall University had 452, followed by Concord University with 95, Bluefield State College with 78 and West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling with 15.

Most of Marshall's international population are graduate students. Kopp and Clark Egnor, director of the Center for International Programs at Marshall, said graduate students are typically older, more likely to live off campus and may have a spouse and children. But undergraduate students who come to Marshall will be more able to invest themselves in campus life. They will be subject to the residency requirement and will live on campus for their first two years.

Those international students also will play a large role in bringing the world to Marshall's domestic student population, including many students who may have never traveled outside the country.

"INTO will help recruit more international students from all over the world, and that will give our West Virginia students an international experience," Egnor said. "It will ensure they are ready to live and work in a global economy."

Engor and Colin explained that INTO's recruiting team has a much better reach and connection to students in their home countries. And the experience will be much more personal now that those recruiters have visited campus.

"These recruiters live in those countries. They can meet with them and their parents face-to-face," Egnor said. "Right now, it's usually just email."

Colin likened it to buying a high-priced vehicle, saying it isn't something you do online. He said you can use the Internet to do some research, but, in the end, you'd like to close the deal in person.

"These are massive financial investments these families are making, up to a quarter-million dollars if they go through graduate school," Colin said. "So the young people and their families appreciate someone sitting down."

He also said the recruiters will leave Huntington with a tremendous sense of the traditions, mission and values which encapsulate Marshall and the state. And "you can't get that from the Internet," he said.

When the program starts next August, the first group of students will start in INTO Pathways program, which typically lasts two semesters. Through an intensive English Second Language program, they will study skills and cultural immersion classes that will help them transition into Marshall's academic programs. East Hall, the former home of the community and technical college, is undergoing renovations to house the INTO classes.

INTO will pay Marshall $390,000 a year to lease the facility, which is costing Marshall $2.9 million upfront for renovations.

Revenues from the joint venture will be split equally into an account housed through the Marshall University Foundation. INTO makes a large portion of its profits through the fee students pay for the Pathways Program. Once they are full-time Marshall students, 16 percent of their tuition streams into the joint revenue pool, while Marshall retains 84 percent that is counted as regular tuition.