CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The number of international students attending West Virginia colleges and universities has grown 8.4 percent in the span of a year, according to a study released Monday.
The nonprofit Institute of International Education said there were 2,708 foreign-born college students enrolled in the state in the 2011-12 school year, ranking West Virginia 43rd in the nation.
West Virginia University in Morgantown had the most international students at 1,744. Marshall University had 452, followed by Concord University with 95, Bluefield State College with 78 and West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling with 15.
WVU led the way in terms of state growth. Foreign-born students grew by 12.1 percent at WVU, while it fell by 16 percent at Concord and by 2 percent at Marshall, the study showed.
Grace Atebe, assistant director of the WVU Office of International Students and Scholars, said figures for this fall show foreign-born students on campus in Morgantown dipped to 1,657. That includes 912 graduate students.
WVU's greatest foreign-student growth in recent years has been on the undergraduate side, she said. The increasing numbers are a combination of aggressive recruiting at fairs worldwide and developing relationships with a network of corporate and government agencies that assist with paying for college.
Once they arrive on campus, the task turns to "ensuring the students have a great experience so they then recommend us to the rest of their friends and family members," meaning the recruitment process starts all over, Atebe said. "We have a lot of students who do come to WVU based on word of mouth."
The greatest challenges for international students can be a combination of paying for college and overcoming language barriers.