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Office of International Programs’ student participation rises after COVID-19 halt

Number of International Students Enrolled by Semester

By Adam Levine

Editorial Staff

The student enrollment in Framingham State’s Office of International Programs - study-abroad programs, faculty-led programs, and international students - are nearing pre-pandemic numbers, Executive Director of International Programs Jane Decatur said.

Study-abroad programs can take place during the Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer terms and are for course credit, according to the University’s website.

Faculty-led study tours are opportunities that take place throughout the year and can last anywhere from one to three weeks. These study tours can count toward academic credit or can be “purely experiential learning opportunities,” according to the University’s website.

International undergraduate students at the University come from all over the world, including India, Pakistan, Brazil, Bermuda, Western Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa, Decatur said.

Study-abroad programs

During the Spring semester of 2020, study-abroad programs shut down due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The students “all came home early, and then there were no summer programs, and then 2021, everything was canceled,” she added.

“It's a rebuilding process,” Decatur said. “Everybody who had gone abroad graduated. So now we've got a bunch of people that have never heard about going abroad.”

Thirty students enrolled in study-abroad programs during Fall 2018, 11 students during Winter 2019, 29 students during Spring 2019, and 20 students during Summer 2019.

The number of students enrolled dropped slightly the following year, with 25 students abroad during Fall 2019, 15 during Winter 2020, 28 during Spring 2020, and zero during Summer 2020, which was after programs were shut down due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Decatur said, “The high watermark was the year before everything closed down.”

She said students benefit in many ways from traveling abroad.

“I see students come back and they come in and talk to us and they're different than when they left,” she said. “They really are different. It may be how they carry themselves, how they talk, how they act overall - it's different.”

Decatur said the graduation rates of students who went abroad are “exceptionally high.”

From the most recent data, the graduation rate in 2019-20 of four-year students who study abroad was 76%, 82% for five-year students, and 84% for six-year students.

Faculty-led programs

Decatur said faculty-led trips halted during the COVID-19 shutdown and were the last program sponsored by her office to resume.

From the 2012-13 to the 2018-19 academic year, the number of students who participated in faculty-led programs only dropped below 100 once.

Over that time span, the low was 93 students in 2013-14 and the high was 131 students in 2014-15.

In the 2019-20 academic year, which was affected by the shutdown, only 16 students participated in faculty-led trips.

The India J-term trip is just one of many faculty-led trips offered at FSU, but it is the only program to run since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the University’s faculty-led programs.

During the 2023 India J-Term trip, 12 students and two University employees participated.

International students

International students are classified as anyone who holds an F-1 or J-1 visa, Decatur said.

“The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program,” according to the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services.

“The J-1 classification (exchange visitors) is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training,” according to the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services.

The number of international students enrolled at the University, by semester, was 19 during Fall 2018, 19 during Spring 2019, 19 during Fall 2019, 15 during Spring 2020, zero during Fall 2020 to the Spring of 2021, 32 during Fall 2021, 24 during Spring 2022, 23 during Fall 2022, 20 during Spring 2023, and 27 during Fall 2023.

The number of international students seeking undergraduate degrees at the University accounted for 0.49% of the undergraduate population in Fall 2019, 0.77% of the undergraduate population in Fall 2022, and 0.96% of the undergraduate population in Fall 2023.

Dean of Strategic Enrollment Management Iris Godes said the University does not plan to add to its efforts to recruit international students, but the admissions office reviews it annually and this may change in the future.



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