No one asked Yucong Wang to deliver a presentation to his high school about applying to American universities.
He just did it.
“Not that many people know the way to the universities here,” said Wang, a second-year electrical engineering student.
He focused less on UCLA and more on broad topics like the SAT in his 2009 talk, while fellow students in his small city in eastern China listened closely.
Wang did, however, plug a city he loves particularly for the weather and the Lakers.
The number of international freshman applicants to UCLA rose by 40 percent this fall. American schools like UCLA are gaining momentum in countries like China, said Tom Lifka, associate vice chancellor for student academic services.
Last year, UCLA administrators decided to capitalize on that momentum and answer the questions that spurred Wang’s presentation with an international recruiting tour.
The chancellor’s office has charged campus leadership with enrolling an additional 2,400 nonresident students by 2013, which would be roughly a 50 percent increase. The term nonresident refers to international and out-of-state students, who pay about $22,000 more than California residents to attend UCLA.
At this point, the 40 percent statistic was less of a surprise than a validation, said Julie Sina, chief of staff in the College of Letters and Science.
“That’s certainly the direction we had hoped to go in,” Sina said.
In anticipation of an expanding undergraduate class, UCLA Orientation expects to accommodate at least 300 students ““ primarily international ““ in Session 111, a brand-new session at the end of the summer. The proximity to the start of the school year will cut travel costs with a stay-through option, said Roxanne Neal, director of the UCLA New Student & Transition Programs.
A new enrollment planning system will shift class distributions in favor of more English-language learner and entry-level writing courses.
One controversial discussion surrounds offering financial aid to nonresidents for the first time in UCLA’s history, Sina said.
Out-of-state student applications grew modestly this year but pale in contrast to the international freshman pool. Lifka called that group the “single most likely source in the short run of adding to our nonresident population.”
But some are not convinced that the campus can increase nonresident enrollment without sacrificing educational quality.
At present, UCLA’s infrastructure cannot handle the kind of increase mandated by the chancellor’s office, Sina said. The biggest question is whether there will be enough classes and lecturers.
“We only have three people in the whole campus who teach anything that has to do with ESL,” said Bob Samuels, a lecturer in the UCLA writing program. “They’re going to have to hire more people.”
Tutoring and housing availability are also points of discussion. The attention on student services is intended to deflect critics of nonresident recruitment, who charge institutions with using international students as “cash cows” without ensuring attendant services are in place.
UCLA does not want to be that school, said Bob Ericksen, director of the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars.
“We want to make sure we do things right and that no student is ever allowed to feel that he or she is a “˜cash cow,’” Ericksen said.
The Dashew Center plans to better facilitate access to visa forms and expand its 20-person staff. The ultimate goal is integration, Ericksen said.
Funded by the student registration fee, the Dashew Center is more immune to state budget cuts than other parts of campus. Sina admitted that it remains to be seen whether the extra tuition will make the entire enterprise worthwhile.
“People are very nervous,” Sina said. “We don’t really know what the bottom line is.”
Admission targets for fall 2011 are expected to be released within the next week.