The Intensive English Language Institute at The University of North Texas has lost half of its students in the past year and expects fewer incoming students for fall 2017 due to the American political climate, oil crisis and terrorism in the Middle East, as well as a weak economy in Latin America, the institute director said on Friday.
The institute has been a home away from home for many international students for 40 years. Its purpose is to prepare foreign students to succeed in college courses.
Fernando Fleurquinn has been the director of the institute for seven years, and said that the travel ban and President Donald Trump’s actions have hurt the program, but so have actions by foreign governments.
“The main reason is the political climate but also there are several other reasons,” he said. “There are many scholarship programs that are being cut and eliminated in the Middle East particularly because of terrorism and oil crisis that are affecting their funds dedicated to educational programs, as well as high value of the dollar in Latin American countries.”
This program depends solely on student tuition and the drop in enrollment has affected faculty as well as students.
“With the number of students decreasing we have fewer teachers than the beginning of last year,” Fleurquin said. “In order to keep some of our teachers this semester, we had to offer nine teachers the opportunity to teach in our english program in Osaka, Japan, at Kansai Gaidai University.”
Lisa Hollinger, taught at the institute for 15 years before becoming the assistant director of the program. Hollinger said that former and current students have reached out to her, scared of the travel ban’s potential effects on them.
“We had about five students who were supposed to come for spring from different parts of those seven countries [covered by the ban] that now can’t come,” she said “This students had visas from us to come to the U.S., so it is hurting not only the students but our industry.”
Teachers are worried about ban as well as the students. Hyunju Lee, a teacher who’s been teaching there for five years, explained the political climate’s effect on budget decisions.
“Nobody expected it to deteriorate this suddenly and this drastically, so we [the teacher] are kind of worried and scared that it will impact our jobs in the future,” Lee said “We used to go to the opera and road trips to Austin, but now we are trying to do more indoor activities to save money.”
Fleurquin said they remain optimistic and have encourage students to keep trying to apply and be part of the program regardless of the travel ban, which could change in the future. The institute is also also being more involved in social media and creating new creative ways to promote the program to the world in hope of attracting new students from other parts of the world.