Honest data

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September 22, 2014

11:07 PM

The College of William and Mary attracts more international students every year — so many that the College has turned its international student programs into selling points. But while the College’s international success is impressive and should be touted, the College should not promote every positive statistic associated with that success, regardless of its accuracy or legitimacy.

Sept. 19, the College’s Facebook page posted a link from a report published by Shorelight Education stating that the College was among the four universities in the country whose international students had all graduated within a reasonable time. This statistic is misleading; it does not appear to account for transfer students. Additionally, Shorelight Education, though reliable, is a relatively obscure source.

The College should be eager to advertise its international student programs — the number of international students has doubled in the last five years to 664. On-campus academic resources like the Writing Resource Center and the Tribe Tutor Zone are better at accommodating international students who speak English as a second language.

The Office of Community Engagement, Residence Life and the Center for Student Diversity help integrate those students into campus life. Last year, the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies started the International Freshman Advantage Program, which helps international students adjust to American cultural and academic expectations.

That said, what concerns us about Shorelight Education’s report (and the College’s decision to advertise it) is that it ignores important questions about the number of international students who transfer from the College.

A recent study by NAFSA: Association of International Educators found a significant gap between the perceived reasons why international students leave before graduation, and their given reasons for leaving. Administrators listed school reputation, finances and academics as the top three reasons, while students reported lack of access to jobs and internships, affordability and availability of scholarships.

The College’s quality resources for international students have improved graduation rates, but how is the College addressing the problem of international students who transfer — especially when administrators and students nationally do not agree on the source of the problem?

When the College markets itself using questionable information, it appears desperate and deceiving, especially when its international student programs are among its greatest strengths. The College should promote itself using more accurate data.

Abby Boyle recused herself from this editorial to remain unbiased in her reporting.

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