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UNH aims to boost revenue, diversity with program

CONCORD, N.H. --The University of New Hampshire is hoping to boost both revenue and the diversity of its student body by partnering with an outside company to recruit and support international students.

The university recently became the fifth U.S. campus to sign an agreement with Navitas, a for-profit Australian firm that sets up and manages international pathway programs. About two dozen students are expected to arrive on the Durham campus in May for a year of English-language classes and modified academic courses. Those who succeed will be eligible to continue their studies at UNH alongside their American peers.

"It's an extraordinarily complicated undertaking to understand secondary education systems literally in countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe, and we really have not been able to invest the time and personnel," said Lisa MacFarlane, senior vice provost for academic affairs at UNH. "It was important for us to have a partner in doing that, and Navitas has a very long and really excellent track record in working really responsibly and successfully with students."

The goal is to have 10-12 percent of the undergraduate student body come from other countries by the end of the 10-year agreement, university officials said. In the last academic year, 76 of the school's approximately 12,200 undergraduate students were from other countries, along with 245 of the 2,200 graduate students.

Increasing the international student population will mean more money at a time when the number of American high school graduates is expected to decline over the next decade. That means a smaller applicant pool of students, particularly those paying the higher out-of-state tuition. Out-of-staters pay $27,762 per year on tuition and fees, about twice as much as New Hampshire residents.

Under the new partnership, UNH will set admission criteria and will review applications from international students. Applicants will be required to meet the same academic requirements as U.S. applicants, except for English-language proficiency, said MacFarlane.

For their first year, students will take mix of English language courses taught by staff at the university's existing language institute and "language-enriched" academic courses. Navitas will hire instructors for the latter from an applicant pool that could include retired and current UNH faculty and staff. The university will approve all hiring for those courses, MacFarlane said.

"So Navitas couldn't just go off and hire someone and put them in the classroom, our faculty would have to approve those hires," she said.

The agreement calls for Navitas to reimburse UNH for the use of the institute and the content of its first-year curriculum. Students pay tuition directly to Navitas during their first year on campus and to UNH after that.

"It's not the kind of relationship a lot of schools have where they hire a recruiter. It's a more holistic approach than that because it establishes a partnership between Navitas and the university to ensure that these students who are coming halfway around the world to go to school in a language that's not their own have a context during that first transitional year that helps them to really be successful," MacFarlane said.

Western Kentucky University became the first U.S. college to partner with Navitas earlier this year, followed by the Boston, Lowell and Dartmouth campuses of the University of Massachusetts.

Winston Langley, provost at UMass Boston, said only five students are enrolled through the program this semester because the agreement was signed so late in the year, but so far, the students are doing well. Like officials at UNH, he sees the program as a way to not only bring international students to the U.S. but to expose American students to other cultures.

"Our students are from fairly modest socio-economic backgrounds generally, and we think especially for those who can't go abroad, having a critical mix of students from abroad would help to shape the campus's culture and benefit many of our students," he said. 

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