Friday, November 01, 2013

international education at tech

Texas Tech has never gone out of its way to attract internationals, but like most universities, it attracts a fair number anyway. They like Texas: it's sunny, friendly, warm, reasonably-priced in terms of living expenses, and diverse enough to make them not stand out too harshly as they go around town.

But the story is a little unbalanced. Tech has 1700 internationals, depending on how you count them; out of 1400 on this campus, over 80% are graduates; only 260 are undergraduates. Unlike UT-Austin, Texas A & M, or Univ. of Houston, all in the top 25 for serving internationals nationwide, Tech has gone down; whereas internationals were 6.7% in 2011, 4.7% in 2012, down 30%, and no telling what they are now, in 2013. Tech's overall retention rate is 80%, which is pretty good, but with internationals their goal is to reach 70%, which appears to show a difference, if I am reading the right numbers in the right way. My guess is that our 260 undergraduates are struggling. In many departments they say, sink or swim, we aren't set up to accommodate you well.

This highlights a huge difference between Tech and, say, Texas A & M, where internationalism is a well-established part of the culture. People come and stay to places like A & M because there is an established community, and people have seen internationals before, and know how to deal with them. It's a little harder in Lubbock, which is much more provincial.

A little over a year ago, Tech lost its Intensive English Program to ELS, a private storefront school in downtown Lubbock. ELS has branches in various places, such as Houston, some well-established, but because it's not part of Tech, many internationals were dismayed by this switch and aren't sure that ELS can train them appropriately for success at Tech. One disgruntled student wrote a "Google review":
ELS Lubbock center is very bad for to many reasons, First, the final SSP/LS exam is not from the book you study before its very hard to pass, because you didn't study SSP book and test you for same thing did not study it . second, the the teachers is not ready to teach us, and didn't have any expensive. next, its very expansive 1730 a month ? for what for all that money . last thing, if you are from muslim you have hard mistreatment. I would not advise anyone to a join ELS Lubbock center
You expect a certain amount of disgruntlement anyway, but you would hope this storefront would be integrating students into Tech life, able to show them the student culture. In fact, they do go to pumpkin patches, or volleyball games, or whatever they can. I'm not disparaging them; they are doing their best. Their website tries hard to show that. Conditional admission into TTU says to some degree, that they are part of the culture, they are accepted, Tech likes them. There are only about 60, though. They hope to climb over a hundred; they hope to get Tech over 2000, in the next four years. Good luck!

Out of Texas Tech's 34,000 students, less than 1% come from over 500 miles away, and that number includes students from Brownsville, TX, and Port Arthur, TX, both over 500 miles away. Tech is not used to attracting students from Louisiana or Illinois, much less China or India. It could. The President recently expressed commitment to the idea. He might, in fact, commit the university to trying to recruit, which is a complicated business, but which is possible. Where would he look? I have no idea, but I have suggestions: Vietnam, China, Brazil, South America, Korea.

What constitutes adequate support for these students? Mainly, they like to have others from their same country around, so that they have someone to celebrate the major holidays with. To that end we should support the student groups and associations that already exist, and encourage others to form. Some universities make separate freshman writing courses for internationals, or provide writing assistance. We have a center where they support internationals, take care of their visas, etc. I'd like to see those numbers go up; it would be good for Tech, and good for Lubbock. Here are some more questions I have:

1. Will it really be possible for a storefront IEP to deliver to Texas Tech a rise in enrollment, as promised, or will we continue to flounder, as we have been? What's the secret to attracting them here; what can we promise them that will work?

2. Are students as well prepared, after a year or so of education off campus, as they were in the floundering IEP that was on campus, before it gave up the ghost & closed down 15 months ago? That IEP was unable to do the paperwork necessary for accreditation, and just closed instead; I've never been satisfied with the story, but that's what I know. I also don't know which IEP, that one or ELS, would be more responsible for our present retention figures. I assume this stuff is tracked.

3. Presently our 1400 students are from about 100 countries, starting with India (34%), China (16%), and Korea. Where else? How does the present (60) population at ELS compare to the TTU other words, what kinds of students will ELS be feeding into TTU in the coming years? Of course I'm more interested in their general preparedness than their countries of origin, but I might have to know the latter to make some stereotyped guesses about the former.

4. Presumably our biggest supply of internationals is coming in through the graduate school, and they already have pretty good English, pretty well prepared for their graduate study. These grad programs are doing their own recruiting, I'd guess. So what are they saying? How are they doing this? How does this recruiting system work?

At a time when international enrollment is at an all-time high in US universities (USC has over 7,000), TTU appears to be missing the boat, but not too concerned about it. They've set out as a goal, to do something about this, and I'm sure they're trying. I'm actually very curious about how it will all work. As far as I can tell, it's one step backward for every step forward.

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