2021-22 Annual Report-International Student Services

Mission

The mission of the Office of International Student Services (OISS) is to actively promote international and intercultural understanding and to cultivate a mutual commitment and support for international education throughout the campus community.

OISS serves all incoming and currently enrolled international students and scholars at UA Little Rock, the Bowen School of Law, and the Clinton School of Public Service. Our office provides assistance to prospective international applicants, supports current international students and scholars in immigration advising, social, cultural, and academic issues during their stay. In addition, OISS seeks to increase international ambience on campus by identifying and implementing new opportunities between domestic and international students through workshops, collaboration with the International Club for social programs, trips and cultural excursions.

Summary Narrative

1) Enhance recruitment and retention efforts to increase enrollment

International recruitment markets are fluid, vast, and very competitive, and offer significant challenges to those institutions without global and national rankings. Institutional rankings are very important to international students as well as to their parents and play a critical role in the student and parent decision-making process.

Beyond rankings, there are many other uncontrollable variables of the international student recruitment life cycle that determine student flow. These include, but are not limited to:  the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, economic and political conditions in a country, US relations with those countries, visa regulations and limitations against a country, currency exchange rates, country location, scholarship opportunities, safety, affordability, and employment and internship opportunities.

Thus, international student recruitment and retention requires strategic thinking, financial support, and some level of centralization. This involves multiple support aspects, including but not limited to:

  • Providing necessary resources, financial and otherwise, to fund and support an on-campus international student infrastructure.
  • Creating additional scholarship and fellowship opportunities for highly gifted and talented international students in areas of academics, athletics, art, and music.
  • Engaging in bilateral agreements between UA Little Rock and institutions of higher education outside of the US.
  • Work closely with the Intensive English Language Program (IELP) specially to recruit foreign government-funded students as well as self-funded international students to create a new recruitment streamline.
  • Updating and otherwise improving marketing materials.
  • Enhancing websites devoted to prospective international students.
  • Collaborating with various academic and non-academic units (e.g., the Graduate School, Colleges, Office of Admissions, Intensive English Language Program, Financial Aid, Student Affairs Division) to enhance and improve recruitment and retention of international students.

OISS has no designated recruitment budget at this time, so in order for it to create one in a short period of time, the University should consider instituting a tuition capture model that would allow OISS to receive a percentage of the tuition paid by international students each semester.  The revenue created by this model could then be used to fund international student recruitment and retention-related initiatives.

Most of OISS functions are designed to support the retention efforts of the University, and we almost have no retention issues with our international students and scholars. In addition to supporting international students on personal, social, and cultural issues, one of the key retention services that we provide to our students is to support and maintain current and incoming international students’ and scholars’ immigration records.

The immigration-advising piece is heavily regulated and monitored by the Federal Government. Due to US federal immigration laws, OISS is responsible for ensuring full compliance with all aspects of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). SEVP is a program within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, that acts as a bridge for federal government agencies that have an interest in information on non-immigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is to obtain a degree. On behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), SEVP oversees schools, nonimmigrant students in the F and J visa classifications, and their dependents.

Additionally, OISS is a US Department of State-designated sponsor of its Exchange Visitor Program and thus is authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors who are interested in coming to obtain a degree or academic and cultural exchange. Therefore, it is expected that OISS will fully comply with the U.S. Department of State’s governing regulations (i.e., 22 CFR Part 62) that oversee these programs, nonimmigrant exchange visitors in the J visa classification, and their dependents.

Additionally, OISS is a US Department of State-designated sponsor of its Exchange Visitor Program and thus is authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors who are interested in coming to obtain a degree or academic and cultural exchange. Therefore, it is expected that OISS will fully comply with the U.S. Department of State’s governing regulations (i.e., 22 CFR Part 62) that oversee these programs, nonimmigrant exchange visitors in the J visa classification, and their dependents.

  • Conducted multiple orientation sessions during the fall 2021, spring 2022, and summer 2022 to provide a variety of information regarding life at UA Little Rock, campus services for students, the U.S. educational system, American culture, health and nutrition concerns, and immigration regulations. Students also learned more about the Office of International Student Services and the support and retention activities it offers to the campus community.
  • Increased enrollment of international students by 200 new international students during the 2021 and 2022 academic year.
  • With an average annual expenditure of $13,320 for tuition alone, the additional 200 international students represented a $2.6 million increase of revenue for UA Little Rock and an economic impact (using the 2.5 multiplier) in Little Rock of $6.6 million.
  • Processed more than 200 OPT & STEM OPT applications during fall 21, spring 22, and summer 22 semesters.
  • Served more than 1,500 prospective international students and processed their immigration documents.
  • Worked with the Export Controls Office and updated certain sections of the website that are designated to J-1 Exchange Visiting Professors/Scholars.
  • Managed ~ 1,000 international student insurance enrolments during fall 21, spring 22, and summer 22 semesters.
  • Reviewed and processed countless Non-Resident Alien forms (i.e., employment eligibility form that is designed exclusively for international students) for those who have received an on-campus job offer.

Finally, OISS is also involved in community outreach by introducing international students to local families through the International Friendship Outreach (IFO). IFO offers opportunities for social and cultural interaction between Americans and international students while they study at UA Little Rock and it also sponsors a number of social events and day trips during the academic year to make students’ time fun and enjoyable.

2) Strengthen student-friendly operations and customer service

Within the last 4 years, OISS has had a number of staff changes and lost a full-time position due to budgetary constraints.  Compared to other state institutions, OISS has one of the lowest numbers of staff members in an international office where the personnel is required to monitor, maintain, and report close to 600 active immigration records (students within the US) and process over 1,000 initial immigration records (students, who are interested in coming to the US) during an academic year under various immigration types at three instructional sites (i.e., Main Campus, Clinton School of Public Service, and Law School).

Due to the workload, lack of resources, and to optimize our and students’ time, we have created a web-based student request system, which operates almost like a full-time staff member. This system has also made most of our procedures paperless and was internally created by the OISS personnel without any cost to the institution.

3) Improve diversity and inclusion efforts to provide a safe and inclusive environment for students

All functions of OISS are designed to support the UA Little Rock vision statement, which addresses “improving students’ lives and enhancing our communities.” OISS actively promotes international and intercultural understanding and cultivates a mutual commitment and support for international education throughout the campus community and is committed to following all applicable federal and state laws as well as institutional policies.

The Office carefully and reflectively advises international students and scholars regarding federal immigration rules and regulations and helps to improve diversity, inclusion, equality, and global understanding in the campus community.

4) Align financial and human resources to operate more effectively and efficiently

Because of the workload, lack of personal and financial resources, and to optimize our and students’ time, we have created a web-based student request system, which operates almost like a full-time staff member. This system has also made most of our procedures paperless and was internally created by the OISS personnel with no cost to the institution.

For recruitment purposes, OISS has developed a full electronic communication strategy that capitalizes on each student inquiry received to ensure that contact is maintained and prospective international students are prompted weekly to continue moving through the enrollment process. This communication strategy utilizes coordinated email campaigns, customer relationship management, and cohesion with all communication outlets including our website, social media, and print materials. This electronic communication campaign was also internally created by the OISS personnel without any cost to the institution.

5) Promote student development, engagement, and leadership

In many tangible and intangible ways, international students and visiting scholars positively impact the learning environment as well as the bottom line of the University. In the 21st century, producing graduates with global competence is the responsibility of every university. This new era requires the University to prepare its domestic students for the rigors of a globally interconnected and highly competitive marketplace so that American students can be successful upon graduation and thereafter. For decades, US Universities across the country have enrolled students and invited scholars from around the world. These students and scholars bring in unique perspectives from their own cultures, and they share them with faculty, staff, and students, which serves as a vital resource for domestic students in increasing their global competency.

UA Little Rock receives a number of non-traditional and first-generation American college students with little to no international experience. This situation has created an international knowledge and experience gap within the community and state. UA Little Rock and its international student office play a key role in closing the gap by recruiting and retaining international students that eventually enable the University to produce graduates with global competence who are ready to meet the current demand for labor in the local, national, and global economy.

6) Other

UA Little Rock is a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. This certification entails a great deal of responsibility for monitoring, tracking, reporting, and recordkeeping of nonimmigrant international students. As a certified school, on behalf of the University, OISS is responsible for ensuring that international students are maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status and reporting information on those students to the US Department of Homeland Security, through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

Schools are required to go under review (i.e., recertification) every 2 years to stay in compliance. Our F-program recertification petition was submitted at the beginning of 2021 to the US Department of Homeland Security, and it was approved on March 07, 2022 without any Request for Evidence (RFE) and Request for Information (RFI). That was a huge accomplishment since the approval decision shows that OISS clearly understands the applicable laws, resources, roles, and responsibilities required for being a certified school.

In addition, the University is approved by the US State Department to host degree-seeking international students, exchange visitors, visiting professors and researchers, and non-degree student interns under J visa classification. The US Department of State adjudicates petitions of schools who wish to issue form DS-2019 for J 1 exchange visitors, which is a different designation from SEVP certification mentioned above.

Schools are required to go under review (i.e., re-designation) every 2 years to maintain good standing with the US Department of State. Our J-program re-designation petition was submitted in 2020 and it was approved in early 2021 without any Request for Evidence (RFE) and Request for Information (RFI). This is also a huge accomplishment as well for our office.


At A Glance

  • Welcomed 200 new international students during the 21-22 academic year.
  • Processed over 1000 prospective international students’ immigration documents.


Assessment 1

Type of assessment (learning outcome or operational)

Student Learning: Knowledge acquisition/construction/integration and application

Alignment with UA Little Rock Goal

Improve diversity/inclusion/equity/and global understanding in the campus community

Activity or experience being assessed

Attend ICEF conference to identify agents and sign contracts to increase the number of well-qualified international students at UA Little Rock.

Assessment artifacts

Enrollment Reports

Time period assessment was done

August 2021 & Spring 2022

Results

A new agent contract has been drafted and approved by the Chancellor’s Cabinet on November 09, 2022

Continuous improvement process

Timing is also one of the restrictions to attendance. Most of the participants indicated that the schedule is not always favorable because it clashes with class schedules which makes it difficult for them to participate.

Stateholder involvement / Communication plan

Enrollment Management & OISS


Assessment 2

Type of assessment (learning outcome or operational)

Operational Assessment

Alignment with UA Little Rock Goal

Improve diversity / inclusion / equity / and global understanding in the campus community

Activity or experience being assessed

International Student Orientation is mandatory and provides a variety of information regarding life at UA Little Rock, campus services for students, academic procedures, the U.S. educational system, American culture, health and nutrition concerns, and immigration regulations. Students will also learn more about the Office of International Student Services and the support and retention activities it offers to the community.

Assessment artifacts

Survey and observation

Time period assessment was done

Fall 2021 – Spring 2022

Results

OISS welcomed 106 new international students during the fall of 2021 semester. About 20% (N=21 Students) provided feedback and suggested offering the orientation in-person.

Continuous improvement process

Orientation sessions will continue to be offered in-person during the FY23 academic year.

WHEN: At the onset of Fall, Spring, and Summer 2023 semesters.
Stateholder involvement / Communication plan

OISS, IELP,  International Students, and Enrollment Management


Assessment 3

Type of assessment (learning outcome or operational)

Student Learning: Knowledge acquisition / construction / integration and application

Alignment with UA Little Rock Goal

Goal 5: Improve diversity / inclusion / equity / and global understanding in the campus community.

Activity or experience being assessed

Experience being assessed through exit surveys.

Assessment artifacts

Surveys

Time period assessment was done

August 2021 & Spring 2022

Results

Survey results will not be available until visiting professors complete their research and depart from the US.The first visiting professor is not scheduled to depart from the US until May 2023.

Continuous improvement process

First survey results will be collected after May 2023

WHEN: Fall 2023 Semester
Stateholder involvement / Communication plan

OISS administration and staff members, Export Control, Graduate School, Enrollment Management, international visiting scholars, UA Little Rock Host Faculty Members, and non-degree exchange students.