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Demonstrating ROI to prospective international students

interstride logo by Interstride
December 6, 2023

With almost 4,000 colleges and universities in the US, international students have a lot of choices of which institution to attend. They also have a big decision to make when choosing the school with the best value for their undergraduate education. Higher education in the US is more expensive than it is in many other countries. Before choosing a US college or university, students and their parents often think about the return on investment (ROI) of their education. 

ROI is the amount of money a student makes on their investment (i.e. their degree) versus how much the investment costs initially (i.e. college costs). On average, graduates in the US who have a bachelor’s degree see a 38% return on investment from their education after 20 years of working. A good ROI on someone’s education means they earn a lot more money than they invested in their degree. In other words, their college degree has a high profit. 

The importance of ROI in international student recruitment

Employment is top of mind for parents and students. A report from Interstride and NAGAP shows that the number one factor that would affect prospective international graduate students’ decisions to attend an institution is a better understanding of career outcomes. 

Another study found that 90% of prospective international students chose to study abroad specifically to improve their future employment options. While employment outcomes are not the only way to demonstrate the value of a college education, they are clearly the primary factor for most international students. 

How to demonstrate ROI to prospective students

ROI for higher education is commonly calculated based on post-graduation wages. However, with the increasing cost of higher education and the current job market, this limited version of ROI no longer speaks to many prospective international students. There are many ways to demonstrate ROI to prospects and their families. Use the actionable tips below to drive recruitment and enrollment of international students by clearly demonstrating the ROI of your institution.

Highlight employment opportunities and outcomes for international students through OPT data

Admission offices can show that international students have opportunities to translate their academic learning into real-world professional practice with Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT provides international students with one year of work authorization in a job that relates to their field of study. OPT can be used before or after graduation, and eligible STEM majors get an additional two years of OPT after graduation.

International prospects may not know about these opportunities and utilizing them can significantly increase the ROI of their degree. The admissions office can also provide digestible statistics on what percentage of international students use OPT and what percentage get a job offer after OPT expires. Include breakdowns for pre-graduation and post-graduation OPT and what percentage of international students get internships during school. If possible, include separate data sets for different academic majors.

Use employment data

Other employment data for international students and graduates can also demonstrate ROI. The International Student Services office at your school captures this data and can share it with you. This includes: 

  • What percentage of international students work on campus
  • What percentage of international students participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) programs
  • What percentage of international students get full-time job offers after graduation
  • The annual average salary for international alumni in various fields
  • The top employers for international alumni in various fields

Focus on graduation rates

High retention and graduation rates reflect positively on the school and its ROI. They show prospective international students that they will be supported throughout their academic journey. Share data on graduation rates based on international students’ home country and their academic major. Interstride research shows that international prospects rely on university websites for information so make sure graduation rates and employment data are clearly displayed there.  

Want to improve student retention rates to boost graduation rates? Here are three specific international student retention strategies for admissions professionals.

Highlight student success stories

Data is a powerful tool to demonstrate ROI, but it often lacks a personalized touch. Share current and former students’ stories of career success and how their degree helped them achieve that success. The more specific, the better. 

You should also consider a student ambassador program. Instead of just reading or watching student stories through a screen, ambassador programs allows prospective students to speak directly to current students and alumni about their experiences at the school. Prospects will likely view information and opinions from students and alumni as being more genuine than those from admissions office representatives. 

According to the Institute of International Education, online recruitment strategies and international student ambassador programs have the highest impact on increasing international student enrollment. Interstride’s student ambassador platform seamlessly integrates into your school’s existing website.

Don’t forget about soft-skills development 

A college degree provides benefits beyond career development and financial gain. For example, college graduates are more likely to be active, engaged citizens in their communities. College also gives international students opportunities to develop key soft skills such as:

  • Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Verbal and written communication

A 2023 ZipRecruiter study found that 93% of employers use soft skills as a critical role in their decision about whom they want to hire. You can help prospective international students and their families understand the value of soft skills in US culture and the US job market by including these benefits in your recruitment content on ROI.

Start showcasing your school’s ROI with Interstride

Tuition costs are a top concern for prospective international students and their families when applying to colleges in the US. To ensure they are getting a good ROI on their US education, prospective international students are focusing on career supports and career outcomes when choosing a school. Admissions professionals can increase international student enrollment and retention by illustrating the ROI of specific degrees from their institution. Focus on ROI from a holistic perspective that includes employability, earning potential, and soft skills development. 

The Interstride for Admissions platform caters specifically to international students so you can start communicating directly with prospects and their families and showcasing your institution’s success without having to overhaul your entire website. Let us do the heavy lifting for you.