International student population doubles over last decade

Explosive enrollment in graduate studies fuels international growth

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RIT’s Strategic Plan in Action—Leveraging Difference

The international student population at RIT has more than doubled over the last 10 years, driven by explosive enrollment in the university’s graduate programs.

A record 2,497 international students from 103 countries chose to study at RIT this academic year, making up 15 percent of the total student body. More than two-thirds of these students are pursuing graduate degrees. Students from India and China account for a whopping 57 percent of the international scholars at RIT and have been a significant factor in the growth of the program.

“When you get above the undergraduate level in India and China, it’s my understanding that there are fewer programs, fewer seats available at the good domestic universities,” said Jeffrey Cox, director of International Student Services at RIT. “The growing trend globally has been that these highly qualified students have to go outside of their countries to find seats. The demand has exceeded the capacity in these students’ home countries, and I think the trend is still going up.”

Cox added that he believes RIT’s growth in international graduate studies can be attributed to its strong academic reputation, co-op program and financial assistance, as well as its “greatness through difference” as exemplified by the many unique master’s programs offered in fields such as sustainability, imaging science and color science.

This increase in international involvement exemplifies RIT’s commitment to global engagement and diversity both on-campus and abroad. Beyond drawing more international students to Rochester, RIT is also working to expand its presence overseas through its international campuses and partnerships with other universities. The large number of graduate students coming to RIT has also helped bolster the school’s desire to boost research efforts.

One of the goals of RIT’s 2025 Strategic Plan, which was adopted by the Board of Trustees in November, is to grow the graduate student population, including American and international students, to around 30 percent of the total student population.

“I think that’s naturally going to happen anyway given our current trajectory,” said Cox.

For Varun Kasturia, a third-year business management student from Mumbai, getting accepted by RIT was just the first step in his journey to the United States.

“The visa application for any college in America is straightforward,” said Kasturia. “They ask a few questions in the visa interviews based on your major and your SAT scores and what you plan to do after graduating.”

After acquiring a visa, international students are closely monitored. Everything from course loads to living arrangements must be reported back to the government for security and immigration purposes.

Kasturia chose to come to RIT because of the university’s strong educational programs and financial incentives.

“I have a great scholarship from RIT and it’s really helped financially, but it wasn’t the deciding factor for me,” said Kasturia. “I was accepted by a few other colleges, but my family and I decided RIT was the best in terms of quality of education.”

While many international students pay for their education out of pocket, some are able to earn academic scholarships from RIT. Others are supported through government programs that have partnered with RIT, such as the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, or international organizations like the Fulbright Program, which provides tuition for international scholars from developing countries. There are 40 Fulbright scholars from more than 25 nations attending RIT this year.

To ease the students’ transition to the U.S., Cox and his staff offer an orientation process prior to the start of the school year. This year, more than 800 new students participated.

“We definitely see a difference between the students who go through the program and those who don’t,” said Cox. “It’s helpful for a couple of reasons, primarily setting up your life and making friends. You’ve come all this way and it’s likely you don’t know anyone.”

International students are also supported by student-run clubs and organizations, including Global Union, the Organization for the Alliance of Students from the Indian Subcontinent, Asian Culture Society and the African-American Latin American Native American Collegiate Association (ACA) among many others. These organizations frequently sponsor and host events around campus to promote interaction and awareness between cultures.

“For whatever reason they come, I’m grateful to have them here,” said Daniel Getachew, a fourth-year packaging science student and E-Board member for ACA from New Rochelle, N.Y. “Growth in the minority community is great news. I’m starting to see more diversity on campus than I have seen in previous years. We’re heading in the right direction.”

Web extra: Meet some more of RIT’s international students:

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a continuing series that demonstrates RIT’s commitment to the new Strategic Plan.