Published: March 1, 2017 By

bruce benson

All the World in Boulder

When I attended CU Boulder in the early 1960s, I remember only one classmate from outside the United States, a Saudi Arabian studying petroleum geology in the same department as me. The prevalence of students from around the world didn’t change too much since I was in school. Until recently.

CU Boulder has always had international students, of course, but they were a small percentage of the student body. That is changing. In 2010, we collaborated with Colorado lawmakers and they passed legislation allowing us to boost the presence of international students. Previously, they were included in limits on non-resident students (no more than one-third of the student body can be non-resident), but they are now in a separate category.

In 2010, CU Boulder’s international student enrollment was about 4 percent, the second-lowest among our national peers in the prestigious Association of American Universities. Today, it’s nearly 10 percent; the legislation limits it at 12 percent. They come from around the world, with China and India providing the most. No qualified Coloradans are turned away because of international or non-resident students.

International students are important for several reasons. They add significantly to the learning environment. College is a place where students encounter people with different backgrounds and experience, from different places, offering different perspectives. People from around the world greatly enhance the diversity of our campus and the experience for all students.

The culture of the university is reflected in its students, faculty and staff, so embracing those from around the world is key to a strong culture. We are an international university, and international students, faculty, researchers and staff are essential.

International students are also an important revenue generator. They pay a higher tuition rate than non-residents do. Increasing their numbers while also maintaining or increasing current numbers of resident and non-resident students helps our bottom line. If we reach the legislatively mandated limit of 12 percent, it could mean some $80 million in revenue.

When I was an undergraduate student, our world seemed like an awfully big place. The pace of globalization and technology’s march have made it considerably smaller. We are part of that world and, increasingly, that world is part of us.

Illustration by Melinda Josie