ASHLAND, Ore. -- International student enrollment is falling at American universities and it's costing the economy billions of dollars. The number of international students at Southern Oregon University has plateaued during the past couple of years, too. Right now, less than five percent of SOU students are international.
International enrollment is slowing down because it is more difficult for people to get U.S. student visas and tuition costs have skyrocketed, according to SOU diversity administrators. Additionally, many international parents are worried about safety at American universities due to recent gun violence.
Many international students know about all of this, but said an education in America is worth it.
Shirley Hu studies accounting at SOU and is originally from China. She's been studying in the U.S. since high school and said going to school in a different country allows her to understand how different people think about the world.
"When people stay in one place for a long time, they kind of forget how big the world is," said Hu. "Until you take an airplane and travel around, you won't see how big the world is and how different people can be."
American universities have a good reputation around the world, according to Suresh Appavoo, SOU's Senior Executive for Equity and Diversity. That's why many students still choose to study here.
"One of the great things about getting a degree from the United States is that it still has a lot of cachet when students go back home," said Appavoo. "That's also one of the reasons students come to study here. They get kind of a boost when they go back home."
SOU is using new approaches to recruit international students. Recruiters are increasingly visiting community colleges along the West Coast to recruit these students. That's because many of them went to high school in the U.S. and already have a student visa to study in America.
Basically, this means that SOU would be recruiting these international students as transfer students. The University said it's important to keep recruiting students who can bring different cultures to SOU.
"One of the powerful impacts is that it makes us stop and think a little bit about how we do things," said Associate Provost Jody Waters. "It really enhances the learning experience for students and the faculty."
International students excited for Thanksgiving
NewsWatch 12 spoke with some international students and they said one of the best parts about studying abroad was learning about new traditions, such as Thanksgiving. That's what inspired Yan Gomberg, who is originally from Brazil, to pursue a degree in America.
"I felt like I was in my bubble too much and I wasn't really getting out of my comfort zone," said Gomberg. "I just felt like pushing myself out of it and I felt like going abroad would be a good experience for me."
Gomberg said Brazil doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving and that's why he's looking forward to spending the holiday with friends this year.