When Japan’s Kinjo College stopped sending students to Columbia College to study English, it had a big impact on enrollment in the college’s English as a Second Language program.
Enrollment in Columbia’s international programs shrank almost 50 percent as a result of that change — from 59 students in 2000 to 30 students in 2001.
Since then, concerted recruitment efforts and the establishment of another exchange program with Kongju National University in South Korea raised enrollment. Kongju sent 20 students in the spring of this year; 14 are studying at the college now, and another 15 are expected in the spring.
Britta Wright, international programs coordinator for Columbia College, said the program with Kongju has boosted its international enrollment back to 2000 numbers.
“We’d like to see about 10 to 12 percent international enrollment with the right mix of students,” Wright said, meaning the college hopes to have students from a lot of places. “We have about 70 international students and we are around 7 to 8 percent (of total enrollment) right now.” Columbia College has about 950 day students this semester.
Wright said Columbia’s small class sizes, student/teacher ratio and direct enrollment for ESL participants benefit international students.
Komi Paniah, a freshman from Lome, Togo, said he chose Columbia College because of the relatively low tuition fees and the size of the college. happy with his decision and thinks a smaller college is better for international students.
“The faculty is very understanding,” said Paniah, whose native language is French. “They have time to explain what everything means and to help and listen to you.”
Paniah said he chose to study in the United States because speaking English will help with job opportunities in Togo.
Nicky Jung, an exchange student from Kongju, also said that English skills help in the Korean job market. He said that in Korea it is hard to practice conversation and listening skills.
“Most Korean teachers of English are Korean,” Jung said. “When we study English we only study grammar and the teacher only speaks Korean. Here in Columbia we study in English, all of us have an American roommate, and we can talk to them to improve our English.”
Wright said that in addition to fostering a relationship with Kongju, other efforts, such as direct recruitment in places such as Mexico, Scandinavia, South America and Canada helpincrease the number of international students. She said the direct recruitment started at the same time the program with Kinjo stopped and the college is hopeful about these efforts.
“What we have learned is that it’s a cycle and you have to wait three to five years to get your name known before you start reaping the benefits of these recruitment trips,” Wright said.
The college has also developed scholarship opportunities for international students as well as an ESL grant that awards $1,000 in tuition to students enrolled in a minimum number of ESL credits.
In the spring, the program will undergo a regularly scheduled departmental review. Wright said the review is not related to the enrollment numbers and that the department is not “in trouble.”
“We do these periodic reviews from time to time to identify our strengths and weaknesses,” Wright said. “It’s just an assessment process. It gives the department a chance to look at our internal processes and maybe get some new ideas in the process.”