Trends for Attracting International Students to U.S. Public Health Programs

Trends for Attracting International Students to U.S. Public Health Programs

Recently, WES featured an article based on WES’ survey of U.S.-bound master’s degree-seeking international students. Trends and Strategies for Attracting International Students to U.S. Public Health Programs reveals the profile and motivations of those pursuing public health and helps you better understand their information-seeking journey. Below are some excerpts from the article.

Public health—an interdisciplinary field incorporating biostatics, epidemiology, health services administration, health education/behavioral science, and environmental science—is one of the fastest growing and dynamic education sectors today, driven by a shortage of well-trained public health workers. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) projects that the U.S. will face a shortfall of 250,000 health workers by 2020. This manpower crisis is even more acute in developing countries. Consequently, and in response to market demands, enrollments in public health programs have grown tremendously over the past decade, both domestically and from overseas.

International students in U.S. public health programs are mostly pursuing graduate-level studies. Although not comprehensive, available data from the ASPPH placed international graduate enrollment at over 4,500 in 2012, up from 2,700 in 2000 in schools of public health

In 2012, 4,500 international graduate students enrolled in U.S. schools of public health. Mirroring the proportion of international students as a percentage of overall graduate enrollments (15.1%), 15.7 percent of graduate students at schools of public health are from outside the U.S. According to the central application service for public health schools, SOPHAS, the top 10 countries of origin for international applicants are: India, China, Nigeria, Canada, Taiwan, Korea, Ghana, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Nepal.

Despite a 67 percent increase in graduate-level international public health students between 2000 and 2012, two significant points of consideration have become evident:

  • The share of international students in SPH has declined: ASPPH data show that international enrollment was as high as 18 percent in 2001 and decreased to16 percent in 2012, suggesting opportunities for SPH to absorb more international students beyond current levels.
  • International enrollment is concentrated in the top schools: In 2012, 10 schools enrolled over half (52%) of all international public health students, indicating challenges for other SPH in recruiting overseas.

International student numbers at U.S. schools of public health have steadily increased over the last decade, but this growth has been slower than among domestic students, and enrollments are disproportionate across institutions. Moreover, scarce budgets for marketing and recruitment hinder institutions’ efforts to internationalize.

To overcome these hurdles, U.S. schools and programs of public health should avoid a cookie-cutter approach to international recruitment, and employ a marketing and outreach plan based on in-depth research and segmentation of the very students they are targeting. In particular, higher education institutions that develop and carry out tactics based on a holistic understanding of international students’ profiles, aspirations, needs, and behaviors and their differences by field of study will maximize exposure and yield results.

Read the full “Trends and Strategies for Attracting International Students to U.S. Public Health Programs” article.

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