53: Eastern Michigan University’s In-State Price Match for International Students w/ Dr. James Smith

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. James Smith, President of Eastern Michigan University, discusses how they’re looking to stay competitive with international recruitment in a politically challenging market with their TRUEMU global rate tuition plan.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Oleson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Dr James Smith, president of Eastern Michigan University. Dr Smith, welcome the show. Thank you very much, Eric, my pleasure to be here. Really excited to talk with you today about different ways institutions can stay competitive with international recruitment and a politically challenging market. Before we dig into that, Dr Smith, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both eastern Michigan University and your will there? Certainly this is my third year as president...

...here at Eastern Michigan. I came after a seven year presidency in South Dakota. Our campus here on ipsilante is situated between the Cities of Detroit and Ann Arbor. We have about Twentyzero students undergraduate and graduate. We are a regional comprehensive university and we look a lot like regional comprehensives all over the Midwest. was probably one or two exceptions in that our diversity numbers are greater than most and our split undergraduate and graduate probably fluctuates a little bit more than many of our competitors. Yeah, it's that diversity number that I'm so excited to talk with you about today. You recently announced your true EMU global rate tuition plan. Can you give us a high level overview of this plan and your hopes behind it? Well, the simplest way to describe it is about a year ago we went in state and out of state with the same tuition. Obviously as a historic State University, there was a period of time where our in...

...state rate was different than our out of state rate and our out of state rate was different than our international rate as applied to undergraduate students. So think of it as as a typical president or vice president or enrollment manager would think of it. Is there were stair steps. The least costly of the first steps was our undergraduate in state and then a step up for out of state and then that third step would be international. To about two years ago we did in state and out of state being the same, and now in this last board meeting, which was in late June, we equalized in state, out of state and international at the undergraduate level. So historically many institutions have focused on recruiting intentionally full pay international students in order to help balance out other disco on in student populations from a total revenue standpoint. But given the downtrend in international student interest within the current political climate, do you see this global...

...rate tuition plan as a necessary strategy to effectively compete for international students? Well, I can't speak for other institutions, Eric, but I can say for us. We are a believer that the workplace is indeed global, that our campus needs to be international, that our students need to have friends, colleagues and others in their undergraduate class work and certainly in their graduate class work as well, that come from around the globe. They're going to work in a very global environment. They're going to have global connections and interconnections in order to do that, and do it, as you said, in a time of I might use the term distress. We thought it was best to say. Let's make this simple. If you live in Alabama, you say, pay the same amount that you do if you live in Michigan. If you live in Arkansas, you pay the same amount as you do if you live in Michigan. If you live in Kazakhstand you pay the same amount as you do...

...if you live in Michigan. So we were comfortable with that. We do understand others have a strategy of saying we are a premium quality and quantity that students want to be a part of, and they index those numbers very differently. We were really focused on globalization and fitting with the work that we've done Hashtag you are welcome here work. We really wanted to say we don't only believe this in a marketing sense, we believe it in a budgeting sense and the financial sense of the university overall. Offering your institution price international students effectively makes eastern Michigan one of the most affordable options in the country for international students. You've also made deep efforts with, as you mentioned, your you are welcome here, creative campaigns to welcome and support your international student populations. How critical is international student in Roman growth to your overall strategic plan. Well, first, thank you for the the little line on that. We may be...

...one of the most affordable. We're hoping that message translates around the globe and it is. It's true and it is part of what we're willing to say and we're excited about saying. But overall, we felt like this was a strategy that fit with you, are welcome here, and fit with us as an institution, and to not do what we just describe really was counter to the message that we were sending to our current international students in our future are national students. We have about a thousand undergraduate graduate international students. We want to double that number to two thousand and we thought this was the way to get from one thousand to two thousand in a fairly aggressive manner. You mentioned how you made this change to your tuition rate for out of staters last year. How have you responded to critics now concerned that out of state and international students are are getting the same tuition benefits as in state students from state tax...

...paying households? Well, will will unpack that in a couple different ways. First, if you look at undergraduates like myself in the late s states like Michigan and Ohio and Indiana, we're paying about seventy eight percent of the overall cost to educate and undergraduate student. The student, himmer herself, was paying in the in the twenty percent, between two thousand and twenty two to twenty five percent. That's actually flipped on its head. So now we see that the vast majority are not inconsequential, but the vast majority of the money coming to us very consequentially is coming from the student, not in consequential as the money coming from the state. So that divide is not as great as it once was. That's one of the first things that I say as we unpack that question. Secondly, we have seat capacity in a number of our undergraduate programs, so we are not opening up new sections just because we have students...

...that are coming to us from around the country or around the globe. We're actually maximizing the seat capacity that we have, certainly in in define majors, and we want to continue to do that. I just came back from a three three country tour where I was in China, I was in South Korea and I was in Taiwan, and I can tell you that the reception there from both students and alums has been very, very positive with regard to equalizing the tuition rate across the board for both in state out of state, and then now adding international. Terrific stuff, Dr Smith. Finally, any next step recommendations for other institutions who are maybe up against nervous and Roman growth goals and they're looking to be more international student friendly? Well, I think you have to you have to do strong analysis and we didn't walk into this with the notion that we can make this decision and a few days or a few...

...weeks. We spent the better part of a year looking at the costs and looking at the opportunities and, as our CFO would say, the lost opportunity cost of not doing this. And as we put all that together, we saw this as something that worked and worked well for Eastern Michigan University. We know that we have international student interest in demand. We want to make it as welcoming it being, the process of getting to campus as welcoming as humanly possible. We're also located about twenty five minutes from Detroit's airport, detroits and an international hub. We have air flights that come to US literally nonstop from all parts of the globe. So we knew that was a significant component as well. I can't tell another institution that this will work well for them. I can only say that when we looked at it within the context of eastern Michigan University, within the context of what we are doing with the ure welcome...

...here campaign, which again has had really phenomenal response, not only within our local community, where we have banners of our students from eighty different nations hanging all around the city, but really from our regional peers, our regional colleagues and nationally and internationally. We felt this was all a good fit for us. To say that I think it's a good fit for someone who might be listening on the West Coast or the East Coast. I can't say that. I would say to them that I think it does tell a very strong message to international students who are looking at your institution when you say we are so committed to this we are willing to walk out on a limb that lots of other places aren't willing to walk out onto. Doctor Smith, thanks so much of your time today. What is the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? I'd be happy to take questions. We have a presidential account here at Eastern Michigan which is pretty creative.

Eric. It's president at emsh em I seh DOT Edu. We be happy to take questions. Walter Craft, who is our vice president for communications, and I will certainly get as much information back to your listeners as we can. Again, I would just say that it is worked for us and the eyes of those who are considering obviously it will take us about a year to really determine if it is the success that we think it's going to be. But yeah, we're very positively disposed. Awesome, good lucky thanks against so much for your joining us to actor Smith, my pleasure. Thank you. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprize wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve...

...today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Download it today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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