This past week, the Board’s International Council, an advisory committee to the President on global issues and perspectives, hosted its first annual meeting in Asia at the W Hotel in Hong Kong.
The move east signals increased attention by the College to prospective students in Asia, says Vice President of Institutional Advancement Michael Kiefer, after years of meeting in Western cities like Paris and London.
“It seems shortsighted not to evolve the membership of the committee to include more members from Asia, in what some people are calling the Asian century,” said Kiefer.
Also joining the Council Saturday are incoming President Daniel H. Weiss and Professor of History Paul J. Smith, who will present to the Council on the Bi-Co’s offerings in East Asian History.
According to an Admission Office report, the class of 2016 “represents the largest number and percentage of international students in the College’s history, with 9% of the class coming to Haverford from outside of the US.”
Of those applications, growth from China is the largest, with the number of applicants almost doubling between 2015 and 2016 and no-need candidates nearly tripling.
No-need international applicants are an attractive source of revenue for the College, because they pay full tuition and do not require financial aid. Space for international applicants with financial need is limited, with just three new slots per applicant pool.
Universities and colleges across the country are seeing an explosion of students from China – according to the New York Times, “the number of undergraduates from China alone has soared to 57,000 from 10,000 five years ago.”
Accompanying this influx of applicants are widely-reported concerns about cheating. Dean of Financial Aid and Admission Jess Lord says that since students first began flocking to the United States, “a lot of people in China saw this as a business opportunity and took advantage of people’s lack of knowledge about the [application] process.”
According to Forbes, “driven in part by hyper-competitive parents and aggressive agents” hired to help students with their applications, “90% of recommendation letters are fake; 70% of essays are not written by the applicant; and 50% of high school transcripts are falsified.”
Now, Lord says more organizations have emerged to educate Chinese students about not only the process but also the standards and expectations of American colleges. In just the past five years, concerns about fraudulent applications from Chinese students are “greatly diminished.”
“By and large we have been very successful – I don’t have any example of students who presented themselves other than as who they are,” said Lord.
Another challenge to evaluating the applications of international students are the varying educational standards of other countries.
“Expectations [for extracurricular education] are much lower outside the US. In some places it’s frowned [upon]. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison,” said Lord.
In addition to a new director position focused solely on international recruitment and admission, the Admission Office is boosting its outreach efforts. In 2012, assistant director of Admission Joe Coish joined other liberal arts colleges on two separate admission tours to Asia, visiting high schools, conducting interviews and giving open presentations to students and parents. Coish traveled to China, Singapore, India and South Korea.
“We’re thrilled about the students coming from China – but we’re concerned about having growth in only one part of the world,” said Lord. Admissions is looking for other new markets where no-need applicants are in abundance. They have a trip to Central and South America planned for May 2013. “I’m not implying we want to see contraction, but that’s part of why we’re looking to Central and South America.”
But with the push to increase international student enrollment come questions about whether the College is ready for such a change in the make-up of the student body. For example, International Student Services is staffed by just one individual, director Denise Allison.
Many international students often cannot return home for breaks, need help finding work in the U.S. for the summer and sometimes need extra support from the Writing Center. More students from abroad could require, for example, re-working freshman writing seminars.
“We are generally less international than most of our peer group,” said Lord. “But that’s no longer particularly true…[now] we can see a horizon where these kinds of issues would require more change.”
Considering the limited number of non-citizen applicants with need the College can accept, Lord says Admissions is also “very aware” of the potential for socioeconomic homogeneity among international students. For the most part, Lord says, that is largely out of his control.
“Given our limitations in aid, it’s an opportunity for us to grow our international student population within the framework we have,” he said.
View a map of the Haverford College’s international alumni below. International alumni are most concentrated in Canada, the UK, Germany and France.
View Haverford College Worldwide Alumni in a larger map