Benaiah Nyanjui, of Kenya, might just end up a student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, thanks – in part – to a baseball cap he grabbed on his way out the door.
Nyanjui recently sported a University of Michigan hat to a study abroad college fair in Quito, Ecuador, where he was living with his missionary parents. The maize and blue cap caught the eye of Diane Finch, manager of International Student Services at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, who was an exhibitor at the fair. She approached the 22-year-old, who was interested in studying aviation in the United States.
Finch explained the benefits of a community college, specifically, lower costs, smaller class size and easy transferability to top four-year universities, including Western Michigan University and its highly regarded aviation program.
“Most international students are unfamiliar with the concept of a community college,” Finch said. “When you explain the cost savings and how easy it is to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree, it really is very appealing.” Several emails, phone calls and skype sessions later with Nyanjui and his parents, the aspiring pilot is working on his application to attend Kalamazoo Valley.
Quito was just one of four stops in Latin America Finch made during a recruitment trip last month. She also visited Panama City, Panama, Guayaquil, Ecuador and Lima, Peru. The tours, sponsored by FFP EDUExpos, bring colleges and universities from around the globe together to introduce students to study abroad opportunities. Kalamazoo Valley was one of only two community colleges to attend. Thirty-five institutes of higher learning participated in the fairs, which each had an attendance of approximately 3,000 people.
“Many students came with their entire families,” Finch said. “It really was a great opportunity to tell people about Kalamazoo Valley and all of the opportunities we have available for international students.”
Finch’s trip to Latin America was part of an effort to increase the college’s international student population and diversity.
Currently there are 129 international students on Valley’s campus, including 65 full-time F1 (non-immigrant status) students. The majority of those students are from Africa. While the number of international students has increased from last year, Finch had hoped to see more international students on campus.
“We faced significant barriers this year,” Finch said. “We had a number of visa denials, including a number of students who wanted to come to Valley from Cameroon.”
Together with her staff, Finch would like to remove some of those barriers and increase the number of international students by 20 percent for the fall of 2018. She is optimistic that the students from Cameroon will reapply and hopes to return to Latin America and possibly visit Vietnam this spring to do additional recruiting.
A record high of more than one million foreign students came to the United States for higher education last school year.
According to the Institute of International Education — a nonprofit organization that works to promote international education and education access worldwide, this marks the tenth straight year of growth in the number of international students pursuing U.S. college degrees.
In the last decade, the number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities has increased 85 percent. Schools in California and New York are the most popular with international students. Michigan is ninth on the list with close to 34,000 students choosing to study in the Great Lakes state. Benaiah Nyanjui hopes he will soon be one of those students.
And if he is, Finch will have a new – more appropriate - Kalamazoo Valley baseball cap for him to wear.
For more information about International Student Services visit www.kvcc.edu/international.