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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

International student enrollment on the decline

By Suma Setty

Macalester has historically been at the forefront in the liberal arts community in terms of the number of international students. But as the college’s competitors begin to catch up, Macalester has been re-examining its method for admitting international students. The class of 2009 has seen a significant reduction in international students than in previous years.

“What it all comes down to is a matter of economics,” said Director of International Admissions Jimm Crowder. “Every year, the board sets a target for the number of admitted students, domestic or international, depending on the budget”.

Although no definite measures have been made to decrease the number of international students admitted to Macalester, it is apparent that there are a limited number of spots for them due to a tight budget.

In 2003, Macalester had an unprecedented number of international students accept admission, a record high of 73 students, according to Crowder. This put an unexpected strain on the financial aid budget and led to the reduction of international students admitted in the subsequent years.

This year, department of Multicultural Life student employee Naveen Sablani ’07 noticed a decrease in international students.

“This year we had an enrollment of about 55 international students, in the past we have had numbers up between 70-80,” Sablani said.

According to the Peer College Data Book, in 1995, 9.6% of the Macalester student population consisted of international students, third in the nation amongst liberal arts colleges. The highest international population in Macalester existed in 2002, with international students making up 14.7 percent of the Macalester student population.

This year, the percentage of international students in the first year class only makes up 10.2 percent while international students were 14.6 percent of the incoming class in the fall of 2004.

President Brian Rosenberg said the decision to decrease the number of international students was made several years ago, before he arrived.

International student program coordinator Aaron Colhapp agreed.

“The program to decrease the number of international students at Macalester started about three years ago with the goal to limit the number to 55 students per class, which was met this year,” Colhapp said.

According to Director of Financial Aid Brian Lindeman, the decrease is due to a decreasing amount of financial aid available to distribute to international students.

“International students generally receive 19 percent of the total financial aid budget, which is nearly twice as much as domestic students receive,” said Lindeman.

So why not decrease the amount of financial aid awarded to international students, and maintain the number of admitted international students?

“Since financial aid is a deciding factor for students to come to Macalester, this option was largely discouraged throughout the administration,” Lindeman said.

According to Lindeman, the administration wants to maintain the amount of financial aid given in order to encourage the most qualified of students. International students will have to face more competition for admission and financial aid to attend Macalester.

Rosenberg and Lindeman said that financial aid is the main reason for the reduction, but Rosenberg said he also believes the decrease is partially due to the “larger and stronger domestic applicant pool.”

In Lindeman’s opinion, the reason the college is looking for more prospective students within the U.S. is most probably because of the decrease in the availability of financial aid.

Vice President and Treasurer David Wheaton said he believes that the college is simply looking to balance the international student population with the amount of aid available and still live up to Macalester’s reputation as a distinguished institution of multicultural and international learning.

Colhapp and Crowder do not believe the decrease in international students will be large enough to have a negative impact.

“I don’t see the decrease making much of a difference,” Colhapp said.

Last year, the percentage of international students enrolled at Macalester was second in the nation only to Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts.

The plan to decrease Macalester’s international population will likely put it behind its peer schools in terms of the number of international students.

Statistics from the Peer College Data Book show that the number of international students enrolled at Grinnell, Colgate, Carleton, and Vassar has steadily increased over the past 10 years. Last year, Grinnell’s percentage of international students was 10.8 percent, higher than Macalester’s target percentage.

“The admission of international students in the future will be dependent upon the budget” Crowder said. “The question we must ask now is, `what is the optimal number of students to admit in order to balance funds?'” he added.

Although the decrease in international students seems significant, Rosenberg said that Macalester would remain a national leader in the inclusion of international students.

Yet, some feel otherwise.

“I can’t imagine how the administration has not found other ways to balance the lack of funds and the number of international students,” Henrik Hakonsen ’09 said. “This decrease in international students might make the international community feel more isolated from the domestic students.”

Sablani agrees, saying international students “are put under [an] even smaller umbrella.”

“International students in the Macalester community is valuable because it breaks stereotypes and promotes peace and understanding,” Colhapp said. “International students bring so much to the college. What they learn here and what we learn from them is priceless. I think I speak for everyone in the [International Center] when I say we don’t want a decrease…we would like to see Macalester as the clear leader in internationalism among liberal arts colleges.

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