In an attempt to increase the University of Maine’s international appeal the University of Maine System is currently negotiating a partnership with Study Group USA Higher Education LLC, an international organization that recruits college students looking for educational opportunities.
“In spring of 2012, the [UMS] board of trustees began the process by which they were looking at the concept with finding an international partner for the purpose of recruiting international students,” said UMaine Vice President for Administration and Finance Janet Waldron.
UMS sent out a public request for proposals before deciding to contract with Study Group, a program that works with over 40 colleges around the world and 200 education counselors who work in over 30 recruitment offices.
“Study Group works with education partners to help attract the highest calibre [sic] students from around the world,” its website reads. “We broaden the reach of our partner institutions, provide the highest quality preparation and help to secure the very best outcomes for students and our partners.”
The UMS cost remains to be determined through negotiations, but the money will come directly from tuition dollars the UMS receives from these international students. The figure will be a negotiated percentage of just the tuition costs, as all room-and-board and student fees outside of tuition will belong to the campus involved.
“This was a combination of reaching out in a larger way to a global arena, but also to the benefit of the campus community, certainly both on the diversity side as well as the financial side,” Waldron said.
When working with collegiate partners, Study Group sets up international study centers that help aid the incoming students’ transition into American lifestyle. Core classes are taught there and English support programs are offered as well. Both UMaine and the University of Southern Maine are expected to participate: a study center is expected at UMaine by the 2013 fall semester, and another is expected at USM by the spring semester of 2014.
“We’re running tight here, because students are making decisions now as to where they’re going, so we’re late in the market for the fall semester,” Waldron said.
UMaine and Study Group have set an opening goal of getting 50 students to attend UMaine this fall, according to Waldron.
“Then what we’re intending is it will increase over the time period,” Waldron said. “Study Group has said that they will try to get 300 to this campus annually.”
After starting out with a smaller goal, USM will be aiming to add 100 international students annually.
The percentage of the tuition dollars UMS pays for Study Group will in turn help fund the two international study centers that will be on the UMaine and USM campus.
“The study centers create a support environment that also has associated with it some delivery of course material,” Waldron said.
The revenue UMS hopes to obtain, according to Waldron, will then be used to “strengthen the core academic programs and broaden the array of programs.”
While specifics as to how they’ll be improved aren’t available, Waldron said that the addition of Study Group at other U.S. universities has been productive.
“It’s been demonstrated elsewhere at other universities that have instituted this,” Waldron said. In the U.S., Study Group is working with the University of Vermont, Long Island University, Widener University, Roosevelt University and James Madison University. Study Group also has higher education partnerships with universities in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
“This is a different model than going out and hiring a recruiting firm that all they do is find students and refer them to you,” Waldron said. “What Study Group does is they identify students, and then they provide the full support to the students to ensure that they’re successful. It’s a comprehensive support network.”
Waldron also said that the involvement of Study Group will not mean the elimination of other ways the university recruits international students.
“This complements our existing programs on campus,” Waldron said.
While the majority of international recruits are expected to be undergraduates, there will be a number of students entering a pre-masters program to help increase his or her English proficiency.
Further down the line, UMS and Study Group could open up discussions on UMaine students having more opportunities to study abroad with the help of Study Group, but Waldron admitted those conversations are far down the pipeline.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for our Maine students to start tapping into this global network and the partnerships that they have,” she said. “We haven’t [fully] developed that part of the program yet, but down the road it’s something we want to work on.”