Eastern Washington University has reached an agreement to allow a student exchange with three Chinese universities, and is negotiating similar deals with several other schools in that nation.
It’s part of an effort across the country to increase the enrollment of international students, after a fall-off of foreign students in recent years.
“It is very much unique, and it’s in some sense an outgrowth of the post-9/11 world,” said Earl Gibbons, EWU’s vice provost. “It’s a way of building bridges between societies and creating relationships for further collaboration.”
Since the United States tightened its rules for granting student visas, the enrollment of college students from around the world has dropped nationwide and in the Inland Northwest – the first such decline in decades.
At EWU, the enrollment of students studying here on visas has dropped from 250 in 2000-01 to 162 this year – though that’s up from the low point of 141 three years ago. No students from China are enrolled there currently, though there are 38 from Taiwan.
EWU and nearly 60 other schools in the United States and China are taking part in a program run by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, which is laying the groundwork for exchanges between the schools.
EWU has signed agreements with three schools in the city of Xi’an – Chang’an University, Xi’an Shiyou University and Xi’an University of Science and Technology. Initially, the deals will make it possible for Chinese students to enroll at Eastern for two years of their education, starting next fall. The students will get a dual degree, granted by both schools.
Eastern expects further agreements with the 31 Chinese schools involved in the program and the possibility of other exchanges, ranging from EWU students studying in China to collaboration among faculty members.
Chinese students are among the biggest group of foreign enrollees in U.S. schools, second to students from India. But since the visa restrictions were tightened, fewer than half who apply for student visas are approved, Gibbons said, while virtually all the Chinese students working through the AASCU make it through.
Gibbons and Brian Levin-Stankevich, interim president at Eastern, traveled to China in October as part of a delegation organized by the AASCU. In February, Eastern will host a Chinese delegation in return, Gibbons said.
Under the exchange program, Chinese exchange students would spend one year in their home university, two years at Eastern, and one more year at home
Gibbons said EWU expects about 20 new enrollments of Chinese students next fall.
“And we would expect that it would grow from the 20,” he said.