CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University is expecting about 250 new international students this fall term through the new INTO OSU Center - one year after becoming the first American institution to sign an agreement with INTO University Partnerships to bolster student recruitment abroad.

About 140 students arrived over the summer to take academic and general English courses, and another 40-50 are expected this fall. Some 90 students have been admitted into "pathway" programs in business, science and engineering. These one-year programs are designed to ease the transition of international students to a new country, improve language skills and introduce them to their intended major.

"We're off to a good start," said Steve Walters, who has directed the INTO OSU Center on an interim basis, after helping set up similar partnerships in the United Kingdom. "The word is getting out about what Oregon State University has to offer and applications should continue to grow.

"We already have 26 additional students confirmed to enroll in pathway programs this January," Walters added.

The INTO students are coming to OSU from more than 30 different countries. Leading the way are students from China, Macau and Hong Kong, Walters said, but there are a number of students from Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, as well as others from Russia and Vietnam.

"We're also expecting a number of members of the Qatar Olympic Committee, who wish to polish their English skills," Walters said.

Oregon State's goal is to eventually double its international enrollment. Over the past decade, the percentage of OSU's student body represented by international students has decreased considerably and now represents about 4.8 percent. The university's strategic plan calls for OSU to expand its enrollment of international students to 10 percent of the student body.

The purpose is multi-dimensional, according to OSU Provost Sabah Randhawa. Foremost is a desire to diversify the student body and bring the vast array of global experiences and perspectives international students have to campus.

"The diverse international perspectives will enrich the educational experiences of our students who will be living and working in an increasingly global economy and society," Randhawa pointed out.

There also are financial implications for this partnership. Oregon's public universities have been hit hard by budget cuts, and international students pay the full cost of education. Mark McCambridge, OSU's vice president for finance and administration, said the OSU Foundation invested about $900,000 to launch the INTO initiative and that the joint venture is on track to break even in the second year, and make a profit the third year.

OSU Provost Randhawa said the additional revenues will open up new class sections for domestic students to address access and improve student services for all of our students. "The increases in tuition revenues that will occur as the international population increases will be directed toward OSU's academic units," he said.

Amy McGowan, who will take over as director of the INTO OSU Center in November, said newly remodeled Heckart Lodge has opened and will serve as headquarters for the center. "In addition to housing support staff, Heckart will have nine classrooms, support staff and a learning center to help ease the transition of students to a new environment," McGowan said.

Work will now begin on Reed Lodge - like Heckart, a former housing cooperative that has been closed for several years. When renovations are completed in December, Reed also will offer classroom space, as well as offices for INTO faculty and staff.

OSU also has plans for a living/learning center, which would include residential capacity for 350 students, as well as offices, classrooms and retail space. The center is scheduled to be constructed and open by September of 2011, at a location just off Western Boulevard, adjacent to Halsell Hall.

Meanwhile, many of the new students are living in West Hall, which has a ratio of 70 percent international students to 30 percent domestic students, McGowan pointed out. "Students from Oregon and other states will be living side-by-side with students from all over the world," she said.

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Steve Walters, 541-737-4677