HBCU international students are bringing in global exposure and money

Aug 25, 2019 by

HBCUs are stepping up recruitment efforts in other countries and benefiting from the full-freight tuition that HBCU international students often pay

The colleges are bringing in foreign students to give their campuses more international flavor, and help with the bottom line

HBCU international students

Fahad Alharthi is a recipient of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission scholarship, which covers his educational costs at Tennessee State University.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When Fahad Alharthi traveled from Saudi Arabia to southern California in April of 2015, by himself at 20 years old, he knew no English. But he did have a scholarship guaranteed by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, to use to learn English and then attend a U.S. college.

Over 18 months, he lived with American host families and friends, studied English at a language school and at California State University, Long Beach, and took the International English Language Testing System exam. On a scale of 0 to 9, he scored a modest 5, but he was accepted at three colleges.

Alharthi chose Tennessee State University in Nashville, a historically black university — where his classmates are black Americans, Egyptians, Kurds and Somalis as well as other Saudis.

In 2008-09, Tennessee State had 77 international undergraduate students. By the fall of 2016, the year before Alharthi enrolled, it had 549 — 8 percent of its undergraduate student body of about 7,000. Other historically black colleges and universities are sparking similar rapid growth in their numbers of international students — for the same reasons.

In addition to the tuition money they often bring — many foreign students pay the full sticker price, often aided by their home countries’ governments — there are benefits for the HBCUs’ American students. Many are from low-income families and cannot afford study-abroad programs. Having international classmates exposes them to cultures very different from their own. Also, when they graduate, they will join an increasingly globalized workforce, and could benefit from understanding the perspectives of their international peers.

“It is important to have different cultures on a campus because we can’t send all of our students to study abroad, so we find unique ways to bring the world to them,” said Jewell Winn, executive director for international programs at TSU.

The spike in international students is also happening at Morgan State University in Baltimore and Howard University in Washington, D.C. — institutions similar in size to Tennessee State — and at some smaller HBCUs, like Central State University in Ohio.

Among HBCUs with 10 or more international students, as of the 2017-18 academic year, Morgan State had the most, with 945 students; Howard was second with 920; and Tennessee State third with 584, according to the Institute of International Education. The three campuses are similar in student population as well as size — at least 70 percent of their students are African American and about half receive federal Pell Grants (usually given to undergraduates whose household income is less than $40,000).

Source: HBCU international students are bringing in global exposure and money

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