Home government scholarships are changing our international student demographics as we visibly saw in last month’s Open Doors Report. If you take the main driver away – China, who is the #1 sender of students to the US (with a consistently high percent increase, this year at 21%) – all but one of the top 25 senders to the US with a growth rate above 20% had a home country government scholarship program in place.
Kuwait has the Kuwait Cultural Office Merit Scholarship. Saudi Arabia has the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP). Brazil has the Brazil Scientific Mobility Undergraduate Program. Iran remains the outlier with no governmental scholarship in place; however, they remain alongside China as a high growth country despite no government scholarship program.
What does this mean for our programs?
First, it means that colleges and universities will continue to focus more closely on recruiting students from these home country governmental programs (assuming growth remains steady). These students come with solid financial means when bundled with the scholarship program. Despite this, however, it is important for colleges and universities to continue a diversification strategy when growing their international student population even though the incentive to concentrate on these home government programs is present. While there continues to be a strong financial backing, frailty of these programs still exist.
What are the risks?
It’s important to consider the risks of these programs and the source of funding when it comes to long-term strategic planning. The most recent example of this comes from King Abdullah’s death and the concerns around whether KASP would still be a priority for the current government. While this program seems solid until 2020, the whims of politics, value of commodities, youth of programs, and overall source of financing can all jeopardize the current funds in place.
Most of these scholarship program are still in their infancy. The Brazil Scientific Mobility Undergraduate Program began in 2011. KASP began in 2005. In finance, we hedging our risks. When it comes to developing a long-term, growth strategy for your international student population, the key is to diversification. If you as an institution recruit students with a similar country profile, the risk you face with interruption is greater. Consider what happened in India and the Rupee. Many schools found that the devaluation of the Rupee impacted their overall numbers because of the large percentage of Indian students at their school. Like with any business structure, it’s important to develop an strategy that allows you to manage this risk – and in this case, attract international students from around the world. By creating a strategy that recruits from different backgrounds, the risk of a declining population is reduced.
We want to hear from you! How has your school’s strategy changed with the introduction of these scholarship programs? Does your school actively seek out a diverse international student recruiting strategy?