Foreign grad student enrollment increases

By Moin H. Khan

Enrollment of foreign graduate students is up by 15 percent from last year despite a drop of 6 percent in the overall enrollment of graduate students at NIU.

Nobody knows the specific reason.

Romualdas Kasuba, College of Engineering dean, said one reason might be that the stipends of graduate assistantships are not lucrative enough to attract American students to the graduate program, especially in engineering courses.

Out of 130 graduate students enrolled in engineering and technology courses, about 80 percent of engineering and about 50 percent of technology are foreigners, Kasuba said.

Likewise, about 80 percent of graduate assistantships are held by foreign students, Kasuba said.

To attract American students in graduate programs, universities have to increase the amount of the stipend, Kasuba said. With a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a student can earn between $28,000 and $30,000 annually after graduation.

On the contrary, a graduate student with an assistantship can earn between $5,000 and $9,000 from the stipend while in school, he said. A student would rather work with an undergraduate degree than enroll as a graduate student and make less money, he said.

Kasuba cited the example of Japan where graduate students receive stipends equivalent to what industries pay workers.

Kasuba said he expects NIU will increase funding for graduate studies.

Despite fewer American graduate students, Kasuba said that through foreign graduate students, NIU receives “actual brain power for research.

“We train them. It is good for exchange. They are gaining, and we are gaining. This helps the academic world,” Kasuba said.

For fiscal year 1989, NIU has already increased funding by $150,000, said Jerrold Zar, associate provost for graduate studies and research.

The additional funding will increase the stipend of a few graduate assistantships, but it will not create any new assistantships, he said.

Zar said some big universities pay about $12,000 a year as a stipend to their graduate assistants. Those universities also provide assistantships to a large number of graduate students.

Out of NIU’s 6,133 graduate students, about 18 percent hold assistantships. The 86 foreign graduate students with tuition waivers are excluded from this figure.

Responding to the declining number of American graduate students, Zar said, “It is not indicative of any long term” loss. These are minor fluctuations, he said.

Out of 24,000 students total, NIU has more than 6,000 graduate students. “Most universities do not have that many,” Zar said.

Explaining the reasons for fewer American graduate students in NIU’s engineering program, Zar said there has been general decline nationwide.

Thursday—Foreign graduate students earn one-fourth of graduate degrees in natural sciences and engineering at NIU.