International student enrollment, application numbers on the rise


Kenneth Rebello

(Left to right) Tricia Serrao, Sudarshan Choudhari, Kushagra Singh, Abhinay Das, Allen Solomon, Dev Patel and Komal Daund attend last year’s international sash ceremony before graduation.

Kenneth Rebello, Reporter

South Dakota State University has seen a rise in international student enrollments and applications for both undergraduate and graduate programs since the last academic year.

“Overall, post COVID, since the Fall 2021 semester we have seen an increase in student interests, applications and enrollments for both undergraduate and graduate international students,” Eric Leise, director for international admissions, said. “From the last academic year to this academic year, we have 8.5% more international student enrollments.”

SDSU has witnessed a large increase in international student applications post COVID as travel options during the pandemic made it difficult for students to study abroad.

“With the pandemic, the entire South Dakota Board of Regents (SDBOR) went test optional, which meant that we did not require the SAT or the ACT,” Leise said. “So that being a reason, along with the demand of getting admissions and universities looking to catch up with enrollments following the pandemic is why we saw an increase in number of applications.”

The current academic year witnessed a 52% increase of international undergraduate student applications as compared to last academic year. Fall 2022 and spring 2023 semester received 1279 and 1141 international undergraduate student applications respectively, with a total of 2,420 while the previous academic year only received 1589 applications.

“The Brookings community and SDSU is very safe overall,” Kirsten Linke, international student adviser for the Office of International Affairs (OIA), said. “We have a low crime rate, different amount of resources available for students and additionally we have a really great price point as you pay far less as compared to other universities.”

Many undergraduate international students have connections with SDSU such as a family member or a friend present at SDSU or someone who has referred them have also led to increase in enrollments and applications.

Graduate international students have increased due to making connections with either a faculty adviser at a conference or a professional organization or even meeting face-to-face virtually with an International Admission staff member.

“International students may have acknowledged about how many great programs we have to offer, the accreditation level and the low faculty to staff ratio so they know they are not typically going into a classroom that has hundreds of people,” Linke said. “You are taking most classes in a classroom with 40 people or less, and I think that is very attractive too.”

The Office of International Affairs along with International Admissions work together with University Marketing and Communications on-campus to bring in more international students through various marketing strategies.

“There’s marketing and then there is recruiting, which sometimes they mean the same thing and sometimes they’re not, “ Leise said. “We work with the University Marketing and Communications office on doing digital marketing such as social media, advertising and search optimizations.”

The recruitment process involves the office of International Admissions traveling around various countries and attending recruitment fairs, visiting high school students, their parents and counselors. They also meet with in-country partners or study abroad agencies to build relationships and help students familiarize themselves with SDSU.

“A lot of that is what we think of as creating awareness about South Dakota State University and creating familiarity,” Leise said. “Being there in person allows me to make SDSU a more familiar name to those students and partners in that country.”

The office of International Admissions has around more than a dozen in-country partners who help international students apply to SDSU. They currently work with around half a dozen of those study abroad consultants who are active.

These relations have been developed through their own network and other people who work with these agencies. SDSU is also a member of the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) that certifies agents as ethical and legitimate in the market.

“We work with professional organizations and certified agencies that oversee these agents to make sure they adhere to ethical standards and practices and are working in the students’ best interest,” Leise said.

At present, SDSU has around 610 international students currently enrolled, which is the largest population of international students as compared to other colleges under the Board of Regents.  The top five countries that international students arrive at SDSU are Ethiopia, South Korea, Nepal, India and Kenya. Reporter