As the U.S. Tackles COVID-19, SCC Tackles International Enrollment


(Photo Illustration: Green Chameleon via Unsplash)

Willow Strey, Business Manager

(Photo Illustration: Green Chameleon via Unsplash)

With nearly 87,000 deaths at the time of publication, the U.S. outnumbers any other country in confirmed lives lost due to COVID-19.

While the virus rages in the U.S., countries like Japan and China are demonstrating case stabilization. Meanwhile, protests and virus-related racism dominate foreign media coverage of North America’s response to the pandemic.

COVID-19 and International Enrollment

According to the Institute of International Education, international students composed 5.5% of the higher education population in the U.S. in 2019 and contributed $44.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018. The viral outbreak forced these students to leave their institution early and resign to online classes. Despite a number of schools making asynchronous learning mandatory, certain students have complained that teachers ignore this requirement and enforce graded Zoom participation.

Other countries have established programs to attract students from abroad, such as the Study in India initiative, which seeks to bring in pupils from around the world to Indian universities. Programs like this plus increasingly negative perceptions of U.S. safety may diminish international student enrollment in the states.

SCC Makes an Effort

SCC’s Executive Director of International Education Samira Pardanani refers to international education as a “relationship business,” with SCC working to maintain good relationships with foreign high schools, universities and international counselors.

“It takes sustained effort to enroll international students,” Pardanani wrote in an email. “Success in yielding international students comes from meeting students and their families face-to-face at college fairs, seminars we host in their home country or by directly visiting their high schools.”

Social distancing requirements and closed borders have restricted such methods of promotion. However, the International Education Department is pushing to maintain SCC’s international student enrollment numbers, which have dropped 16% for fall 2020. In comparison, the UW Seattle campus saw a 9.9% drop in international student enrollment from fall 2019 to spring 2020.

Plans in Motion

SCC is tackling the issue by providing the most personal service they can, Pardanani said. For example, one member of SCC’s International Education Department recently participated in a virtual college fair in Vietnam. Another led three days of evening to early morning seminars for prospective students in China.

Faculty in SCC’s International Education Department hope to offer the most consistent, direct and informative service possible in order to relieve the worries of parents and students alike.

“We have tried to be open with students about what we don’t know and have also been reassuring them that we have high quality online options for them, no matter what,” Pardanani wrote.

The Future

Despite worries about the impact of decreased international student enrollment on SCC’s income, Pardanani emphasized that the needs and safety of students are a top priority, and that all decisions on behalf of the International Education Department are made with this in mind.

"We have tried to be open with students about what we don’t know, and have also been reassuring them that we have high quality online options for them, no matter what," she wrote. "We hope [that] provides certainty in a time of uncertainty.” 

Pardanani noted that SCC has spent years developing a reputation with its partners, and has a good foundation in place for remote operations. Its faculty are working hard to ensure both a quality education for students and a diverse campus.

“We are going to be here for them, whether face to face or online,” she said.