Coronavirus Claims a UVM Program for International Students | Off Message

Coronavirus Claims a UVM Program for International Students


The University of Vermont campus - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • The University of Vermont campus
A University of Vermont program that serves English language-challenged international students has become a casualty of the coronavirus.

The Global Gateway Program, established in 2013 to help increase the university's international student population, will "officially sunset" this fall amid a "complex and uncertain landscape " brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, UVM provost and senior vice president Patricia A. Prelock wrote in an email to deans and department chairs on Tuesday.

Universities around the country fear that the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions may prevent some international students from attending college in the U.S. this year. That is particularly concerning for universities such as UVM, which has heavily relied on those tuition dollars. Foreign students, who are ineligible for federal loans, often pay full freight, making them attractive prospects for colleges that compete for a shrinking number of high school graduates in the Northeast.

But the school says there was not much of a choice. "Due to the fact that visas are not being processed as a result of the pandemic, we would not have been in a position to welcome students into the program this fall," wrote UVM spokesperson Enrique Corredera in an email to Seven Days.
Global Gateway Program students were informed of the decision late Friday night, an email obtained by Seven Days shows. The brief note stresses that the program's cancelation will not impact those currently enrolled and said UVM remains "deeply committed" to international students and their success.

Fifty students are already enrolled in the program this academic year, with two final groups expected to complete it remotely this spring and summer before matriculating into the general population.

UVM debuted the Global Gateway Program as part of an initiative of former president Tom Sullivan to increase international enrollment. The program focuses on students whose English skills fall below what's required to be directly admitted to the university and generally lasts two or three semesters. Those who complete the undergrad program enter the university as sophomores; there's also a master's track.

UVM has billed the program as an opportunity for international students to adjust to life in the U.S. while at the same time increasing campus diversity.

UVM has employed a London-based company called Study Group to enhance its global reach in recent years. The company has helped the university increase its percentage of international undergrads from 1 percent in 2013 to roughly 6 percent this academic year.

But Prelock, the provost, said that the university has faced increasing competition for international students since the Global Gateway Program began seven years ago.
"At that time, we were one of just a few national universities that had pathway programs; today many universities do," Prelock wrote in her email. She also cited a "national context" that has complicated recruitment efforts and said the pandemic has only worsened matters.

A notable drop in foreign students on campus would deal yet another blow to UVM's budget as it copes with millions of dollars in losses caused by the pandemic.

The university's trustees adopted a three-month budget last month that will buy officials time to understand the full impacts of the pandemic. And the university detailed a series of austerity measures last week that included trimming hours for some faculty.

Study Group is now working to find alternative placements for two students who had confirmed their intent to enroll at UVM's program this fall, according to Corredera. He added the university remains hopeful that visa issues will be resolved in time for international students to still attend UVM through direct admission this fall.

Prelock wrote that UVM will continue to recruit international students and build a "multi-cultural awareness" in the program's wake.

"We also remain committed to internationalization as an important and enriching aspect of life on our campus," the provost wrote.

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