By Kelly Adams Keller, Arizona Global
In a year in which international student enrollment has trended downward at colleges nationwide, and global mobility has been severely disrupted, the University of Arizona is experiencing unprecedented growth in international student enrollment.
International student enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities had been steadily trending upward over the past decade. However, it plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic from a high of 1,095,299 in 2019 to 914,095 in 2021, according to Open Doors’ annual international student enrollment report.
Bucking this national trend, the University of Arizona now has the highest number of international students enrolled in the university’s history, with over 5,400 international students enrolled in degree programs on main campus and around the globe, according to the university’s fall 2021 census.
“These numbers reflect a coordinated and holistic approach to global education that was a pillar of the university’s strategic plan long before COVID,” said UArizona Vice President for Global Affairs and Dean of Global Education Brent White. “This approach involves meeting students wherever they are and providing opportunities to earn a UArizona degree in their home country, at the main campus in Tucson, online or any combination of the three. Our global enrollment was growing before the pandemic and has only accelerated since then.”
Every year, thousands of students from more than 100 countries choose to earn their degrees at the University of Arizona’s main campus in Tucson. Included in the fall 2021 enrollment numbers are 3,097 total international students attending classes on main campus, an increase of 3.2% over fall 2020. The number of new international undergraduates enrolled on main campus is up 65.9% over fall 2020.
The university’s total international student enrollment also includes 2,073 students enrolled in UArizona programs outside the United States.
Delivering Education ‘Everywhere You Are’
By creating new opportunities and modalities for students to earn a degree, stay on track or begin a new degree program, UArizona has made it possible for students to pursue higher education from wherever they are in the world.
Of UArizona students currently enrolled outside the U.S., 181 are pursuing Global Direct Online degree paths. An option in its second year, these online degree paths make a U.S. degree accessible and affordable to students who cannot or do not wish to travel to Arizona to study in person.
“The online degree options we have created are making a huge difference to students who needed flexibility in these uncertain times,” said Stephanie Adamson, UArizona assistant dean for global admissions and enrollment. “We are making sure those students who need to can pursue their degree from their home country. We are truly living up to our international admissions motto: ‘Everywhere you are.'”
In addition to those students choosing Global Direct Online degree paths, a record high 1,892 international students are currently enrolled in Microcampus Dual Degree Programs – an increase of 400 over last year. In dual degree programs, students can earn dual degrees from UArizona and a partner university. This innovative model allows students to complete a U.S.-accredited degree at a campus convenient to them.
The University of Arizona now has 13 microcampus locations worldwide, with respected partner universities in 11 different countries offering 37 different undergraduate and graduate dual degree combinations.
Students in the dual degree programs in the microcampus network learn from UArizona professors, gain access to UArizona resources, and can spend a semester on the main campus in Tucson as part of their degree program through the Study Arizona experience.
Study Arizona allows students to attend classes on the university’s main campus in Tucson and learn in person from UArizona’s world-class faculty, while having an American college experience.
UArizona senior Sebastian Montoya Huarachi is a dual degree student in the Eller College of Management, enrolled through microcampus partner Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC) in Lima, Peru.
Huarachi is one of 19 students from UPC spending the fall 2021 semester at UArizona as part of the dual degree program.
“I feel grateful to be a part of this group, learning from Eller’s prestigious faculty, taking part in clubs, and exchanging thoughts and learning new points of view,” Huarachi said. “Through the Study Arizona program, I’ve learned so much about other cultures, met other international students, and learned about American culture and new ways of doing things that I can apply to my major.”
Silvana Lucia Sosaya Moreno, another UPC senior spending the semester at UArizona, is pursuing a dual degree in sustainable architecture. Moreno said the diversity and cultural exchange among students and professors has been a highlight of her experience, with university faculty and friends from all over the U.S and around the world making her feel welcome.
“What I value most about being here,” Moreno said, “is that it has allowed me to do more research than what I am used to, as well as the opportunity to understand another culture and to adapt to a new teaching methodology. I am gaining a broader perspective of what I can do as a professional.”
Moreno said she was drawn to UArizona’s offerings focused on sustainability.
“I believe in sustainability as an important value, especially for architecture,” Moreno said. “In Peru, these types of programs are just starting to develop or do not exist. The research I have made these years in the program, my knowledge, as well as the opportunities that have been presented to me, make me believe that there is hope for a better future in construction, and I am glad I can be a part of it for the planet and for my country.”
When she returns to Peru in the spring, Moreno plans to continue developing the personal connections she has made, and build upon the skills she is learning at UArizona.
“The University of Arizona main campus has long been an attractive destination for international students,” said Daniel Palm, UArizona associate vice president for global affairs. “We are building partnerships that will last, growing as a top global university and pursuing collaborations with institutions that share our vision. With the degree paths and options available through our worldwide network, our international student enrollment has great potential to continue growing.”
The fall enrollment numbers include 97 international students who are unable to travel to the U.S. at this time and are enrolled in main campus courses from outside the U.S. – an accommodation that was put in place due to pandemic-related restrictions for some students in specific locations and programs. There are 134 international students currently enrolled in Arizona Online.
The UArizona international graduate student population has grown as well as the undergraduate population. First-time degree-seeking international graduate student enrollment is up 128% over fall 2020. International students now make up 15% of the new graduate student population, compared to 7% at this time last year.
“For our worldwide footprint to expand so rapidly in the past year represents a team effort, and a tremendous amount of work on the part of our enrollment counselors and international student support teams,” Adamson said.
With a new website and streamlined application process, international admissions enrollment counselors – who collectively speak 15 languages – communicate every day with prospective undergraduate, graduate and advanced degree-seeking students in all regions of the world.
The University of Arizona was recently named a Top 100 Best Global University by U.S. News & World Report. UArizona ranked No. 99 out of 1,750 higher education institutions across 90 countries in the 2022 Best Global Universities ranking, released in October.
“We are committed to providing access and opportunity to higher education worldwide,” White said, “and look forward to continuing to expand our global offerings in the coming year.”