Clark College appeals to students from abroad

International enrollment helps boost college’s bottom line

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter



Clark College recently wound up getting national coverage for its international outreach.


The number and origin of international students enrolled at Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver.


17 — Korea.

15 — Japan.

11— Vietnam.

9 — China.

3 — Canada.

2 — Mexico, Saudi Arabia.

1 — Qatar, Australia, Bhutan, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Taiwan, Venezuela.


8 — China, Vietnam.

5 — Hong Kong.

2 — South Korea, Turkey.

1 — France, Albania, Indonesia, Japan, Canada, India.

When two Clark College officials visited seven cities during a four-country Asian tour, they wound up as “poster Penguins” for a lead story in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Bill Belden, vice president of student affairs, and Jody Shulnak, interim international programs manager, were photographed at a desk with a banner bearing a familiar message: “Clark College, The Next Step.” It was taken in an unfamiliar setting, the China Education Expo 2011 in Beijing.

With more foreign students looking to continue their educations in the United States, many American colleges are looking to increase their international enrollments. There are cultural payoffs on both sides, as well as strong bottom-line benefits.

“We’ve been long committed to diversify the student body, and international education has been at the core of that for Clark,” Belden said. “It also gives us an important source of revenue. International students have to pay the full cost at a state college or university. That’s about $9,000 a year at Clark, while it costs $3,000 a year for a local graduate.”

Clark College has 73 international students. There are 31 international students at Washington State University Vancouver, where the annual cost for an out-of-state student is around $30,000.

What do the students get for their money?

“The clear message we received is that one benefit is language acquisition,” Belden said. “Most speak English already; to attend Clark, they have to. But their proficiency is enhanced. And, there is a distinct value for earning a degree here.”

That includes a couple of years at Clark College, which just celebrated International Education Week.

“Most want to go to a top university. But starting at a community college and transferring is a better avenue than direct application,” Belden

said. “A student can come here and build skills and a transcript. That’s the benefit we’re promoting.”

U.S. educators also hear that their international graduates have better job prospects when they return home, Belden said.

As far as impact on domestic enrollment goes, Belden said the internationals don’t squeeze anybody out of a classroom.

“We’re careful not to displace local students who need an education. We have 17,000 students, and 75 are international,” he said. “We’re thinking that as we grow the program, we could be at 100 internationals next year. Some slow growth helps internationalize the campus, creates a diversity of perspective and also provides a financial benefit when we are in need of resources.”

Green River College, where Belden worked before coming to Clark, had an international enrollment of about 1,300 students, he said.

WSUV’s 31 international students include 18 undergrads and 13 graduate students.

China and Vietnam top WSUV’s list with eight students apiece.

All eight students from China are graduate students, spokeswoman Brenda Alling said. Vietnam has the largest representation among undergraduates.

The most popular major among graduate students is mechanical engineering; international undergrads primarily are studying business, social sciences-psychology and biology.

Clark’s recruiting trip was part of a tour to Japan, China, South Korea and Vietnam organized by a company that specializes in international education. Clark’s expenses of about $10,000 came from its international program and didn’t tap into state funds, Belden said.

“We were using international revenue to invest in international growth,” Belden said.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558 or