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Marshall gearing up for program bringing international students

May. 12, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

What is the new INTO international student recruitment program on the Marshall University campus? How does the program work? Will MU be getting well qualified students? Does the INTO company have a good track record of student recruitment at other universities? How will the program's finances work? Who will control the students' academic program?

Questions such as these have come up recently. Speaking for myself, and without seeking the opinions of officials in either the administration or INTO prior to writing this, I will provide some answers, as I understand the details.

As chair of the MU Internationalization Committee, I represented Marshall's faculty in the search for the company that would best meet Marshall's needs as MU seeks to recruit additional international students. The process of selecting INTO played out over a year. Eight companies were in the running. The three companies whose written proposals and references were strongest were invited to campus, where each made a formal presentation. Ultimately, INTO was selected as the best, and last fall a contract between INTO and Marshall was signed.

INTO recruits international students who wish to study at English speaking universities. Before it contracted with INTO in 2009, Oregon State University had 434 international students. Four years later it has over 1,000. The University of South Florida's numbers grew from 442 to 636 in its first year, 2011. Although Marshall is just the fourth U.S. school (a third began last fall) to contract with INTO, the company has similar agreements with a dozen universities in Britain. Thus, INTO has an identified track record of successful student recruitment.

INTO recruits good students. At both OSU and USF, students who were recruited by INTO are out-performing those schools' other international students. For example, in the fall 2010 semester at OSU, students who had been recruited by INTO and then completed the Pathway program (see below) had a combined GPA of 2.78 in the university's regular classes, while international students who had not been recruited by INTO had a combined GPA of 2.64.

Beginning this fall, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score that international student will need in order to be fully admitted to an undergraduate degree program at Marshall will be raised from 60 to 78. Thus, academic standards are being raised for an international students at the same time that the INTO program admits its first students. In contrast, up to now the students whose scores were in the 60 to 77 range have been thrown into Marshall's classes in a sink-or-swim fashion. Now, however, these students will be admitted to the INTO Pathway program. This program combines intensive language study, academic skills development and academic course work. The program's purpose is to optimize each student's opportunity to successfully navigate the freshman year. By the sophomore year, the vast majority of these students will be ready for the regular classroom. At Oregon State University, 76 percent of the Pathway students qualified for entry into the regular academic coursework at the end of the first year.

INTO has agents in about 60 countries. Last November, dozens of them visited Marshall for several days. Now they are back home where they are meeting with high school and college students who desire a U.S. academic experience. Several INTO administrative staff already are on campus, at work laying the groundwork for the first group of students in August.

The financial agreement between Marshall and INTO works like this. First, a Marshall-INTO joint venture entity was created. That entity will hold the tuition that is paid by the students INTO recruits to Marshall. The joint venture entity reimburses INTO for its administrative and marketing costs, and it reimburses Marshall for the salary and benefits of the Marshall professors who teach the Pathway courses, and for INTO's rental of the classroom and office space in the building that previously housed the community college. Beyond covering those reimbursement costs, any profit is divided 50-50 by Marshall and INTO.

It is important to note that the faculty members who oversee and teach the Pathway and English language courses are employed by Marshall, not contracted or employed by INTO. The Pathway and English language curricula are governed by Marshall. Thus, Marshall has full control over the academic side of the INTO-Marshall program. By the second year, it is estimated that between 100-200 new international students will attend Marshall, and that number is expected to rise to more than 500 additional international students, and bring in up to $6 million per year, in five to seven years.

Aside from the additional revenue, there are a number of benefits to MU and its students. The program will increase the diversity and the internationalization of the campus. The global thinking of our West Virginia students will be elevated. The project will raise Marshall's international reputation, aid in development of collaboration with other universities and with other nations, create jobs on campus and serve as a plus for the local business community.

To learn more, the MU-INTO website is found at: http://intohigher.com/marshall.

W. Joseph Wyatt is a professor of psychology at Marshall University.

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