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When it comes to recruiting, keep it in the family

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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This summer, the University of Iowa Foundation and the state Board of Regents will take the approach that we have to spend money to make money.

Student recruitment and presidential fundraising are difficult practices to grasp and have a indescribable taint to them, sort of like backroom politics. Not many intimate details of what goes on or what is promised during a one-on-one sit-down are released, making the students and the general public uneasy and skeptical about the process. Plus, with the influx of foreign students, concerns arise about Iowa students being brushed aside because they spend less on tuition or do not make for great cocktail conversation.

By now, we're all aware that President Sally Mason will go to China with other UI officials to give the commencement address to the M.B.A. program in Hong Kong. She also will attend many events in major Asian cities and generally try to promote UI, encouraging students from China and Taiwan to continue coming this way.

Because international students compose 10.6 percent of the UI students, and of that 10.6 percent, 1,737 — or more than half — are from China, it's time for the university to refocus its recruitment efforts toward picking up top achievers in the state of Iowa instead of trading IQ points for dollar signs.

Mason said recruiting Iowa students "who are looking for a great education at a good price" is "first and foremost" important in a June 13 interview with The Daily Iowan. But she went on to say the ties with Asia and the international community improves the education and economy in Iowa City.

Our ties with the Asian region are very important to the UI, no doubt. We have 13 "sister schools" in China that allowed for a successful student-exchange program for nearly 100 UI students who studied abroad in China last year.

Michael Barron, the director of UI Admissions, said the university has seen record-breaking numbers of international students increase again and again since 2007, to our all-time high in 2011. In fact, the UI has seen an all-time high in enrollment overall for the class of 2015.

Furthermore, according to a 2008 news release, international students contribute large amounts of money to our economy in the forms of tuition and room and board. In fact, 61.5 percent report that they receive their funds from "sources outside of the United States," which means that not only are they providing the UI with necessary diversity, they are also large contributors to the university's funds.

But, when all is said and done, Iowa's regent universities should not operate like corporations. They were built, first, to educate prospective students from the state of Iowa, not international students.
Fall 2011 enrollment showed an additional 1,240 students attended the regent universities compared with the previous year, totaling 73,948 students attending the three Iowa public universities, according to the regents' 2011 annual report. But the unfortunate truth of this number is that only around 47,000 of these students were Iowans.

This means only around 60 percent of the students at Iowa's public universities are from Iowa — a startling number when UI sees fit to spend money recruiting more nonresidential students in the upcoming weeks.

Iowa's high schools are packed full with bright and motivated young minds trying to decide not among Iowa State, UI, and Northern Iowa but among the East and West Coasts. It's time to grab them before they can get away.

Not only would the money be better spend trying to recruit top academic achievers in Iowa, but the money spent on travel, room, and board — such as eating expenditures and hotel costs — would support local businesses.

The UI spends around $130,000 per year to recruit international students with each trip ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. Imagine ten-grand rolling into a small Iowa town for recruitment — boom goes the economy.

Public universities such as ours thrive on public support. If local trips like these can remind Iowans what it means to have excellent universities right here in our state, they may not be so opposed to increasing state appropriations to further the success of the universities.

If the UI wants to encourage successful alumni and any other private donors to continue to donate money to keep this school a place of scholarly success, then by all means. But when you sit down for a one-on-one, let's just remember to keep it in the family.


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