International student enrollment drop causes UI to cut nine ESL faculty

International enrollment has steadily decreased at the University of Iowa since 2018, causing the end of nine faculty members’ contracts from the English as a second language department.

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Daniel McGregor-Huyer

The Old Capitol is seen in Iowa City, Iowa on April 14, 2022.

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter


The University of Iowa will not renew the contracts of nine instructional-track faculty members in the English as a Second Language department because of a decline in undergraduate and graduate international student enrollment. The contracts will expire on June 30.

The terminated faculty members make up half of the department.

Jeneane Beck, assistant vice president for external relations, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan on April 12 that international student enrollment directly affects the demand for ESL courses and support at the university.

“In consideration of the enrollment trends and projections and class size data, the college has decided not to renew the contracts,” Beck wrote.

Beck wrote that the decision to not renew the contracts is not a reflection of the quality of the faculty’s work, but because of enrollment trends, which have declined on a national scale.

“The college is committed to serving international students on our campus and will maintain an appropriate faculty to student ratio based on enrollment levels to ensure their success at the UI,” Beck wrote.

Approximately 2,000 international students are currently enrolled at both the graduate and undergraduate levels at the UI, Beck wrote.

A survey of 700 schools by the Institute of International Education concluded that nearly 40,000 international students deferred enrollment for fall 2020. For the fall 2020 semester, international student enrollment was down 43 percent nationwide.

The UI reported a decline in international enrollment as early as 2018, Beck wrote. Total UI undergraduate and graduate international student enrollment in 2017-18 was 3,196 but enrollments as of fall 2021 across all ESL programs total 548.

“The number of international undergraduate students enrolling at Iowa has declined due to several factors including increased competition for students, a marked decrease in students from China specifically, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Beck wrote.

Russell Ganim, UI International Programs associate provost and dean, said that he is working with the UI Office of Admissions to recruit students from Africa, India, the Middle East, and in Latin America in the next two to three years.

“We are implementing a vigorous international student recruitment plan,” he said.

Ganim said the UI can raise the rates of international enrollment as long as the university continues to strengthen the UI’s relations with international high school counselors.

“Our international students make invaluable contributions on an intellectual and cultural level, which make our campus the vibrant and wonderful place that it is,” he said.

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