A record number of international students attended this semester, and foreign government aid may play a part.
Aiding in the international population’s growth on campus is the continued growth and interest of international government programs in sending students to Murray State.
Abraham Alqahani, freshman from Saudi Arabia, is one of approximately 400 Saudi Arabian students studying at Murray State, which is the largest government-sponsored group on campus. Alqahani and his classmates here are part of a larger 40,000 Saudi Arabian group studying in America, many of whom are having their entire undergraduate education paid for.
Alqahani said without financial aid from his government he would be unable to afford the cost of completing his degree at Murray State.
“It’s hard for me,” he said. “It is so expensive here that I need to have a government scholarship and salary or I wouldn’t be able to stay.”
The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission is the largest foreign government organization sponsoring students’ education at Murray State. In addition to paying for students’ tuition they also provide students with a $2,000 a month stipend. SACM helps students additionally with finding housing, health insurance and also provide additional stipend money to married couples and those with children.
Abdullah Alzahrani, freshman from Saudi Arabia, said despite the program’s prominence at Murray State, not everyone who applies for a scholarship with SACM gets accepted. He said many of his relatives were unable to fund their education abroad.
“The program is for (Saudi Arabians) who graduated no more than five years ago, have a high GPA or who have a special talent or skill,” he said. “It’s still possible for Saudi Arabians to study in America without (financial aid), but not all have the economic status to be able to do so.”
The final enrollment for international students at Murray State was 824 students this semester, up 73 students over last fall semester according to Bill McKibben, director for International Student Enrollment and Retention. Approximately half of this number comes from government-sponsored programs in countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Kuwait.
McKibben said there has been a 5 percent trend in growth in past years.
Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, said government-sponsored students from other countries, specifically Saudi Arabians, are important to Murray State.
“Every year we go to Washington and visit a lot of the embassies whose governments and countries who are sending us students,” Robertson said. “We talk about our relationship and, ideally, what we can do to attract more students.”
Despite the large amount of revenue generated, Robertson said they are not more highly sought after than other international groups. He said Murray State has an interest in meeting the needs of all its students in terms of academics, housing and campus life.
“We want all students to have a positive experience,” Robertson said. “When they’re talking about (Murray State) we want their friends to say ‘Man, I wish I had studied abroad in Murray.’”
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer