About 1,000 foreign students enroll at Washington State University each year, bringing the university different academic perspectives and cultural diversity, as well as a number of enrollment challenges, including the need for language training.
The Intensive American Language Center, which works at the heart of this effort to help students adapt to the English language, recently calculated that those students also represent a “revenue-generating” source for the university.
“It has been estimated that the class of IALC students who entered WSU in 2002 has the potential of generating $857,660 in tuition and $1,669,540 in total revenue before they finish their degrees here,” said Robert Harder, director of WSU’s International Programs.
“We are completely self-funded,” said IALC Director Pam Duran. “WSU students must pay tuition to enroll in IALC classes if they need language support.”
20 years and counting
Marking 20 years at WSU this month, IALC services may soon expand. An ESL task force recently was formed through the Office for Academic Affairs. Its focus is to make English as a Second Language (ESL) services available to more students, Duran said.
“That is a great need that we have,” said Harder. “We must establish an institutional strategy for addressing these needs, and IALC will be at its core.”But IALC students contribute much more than money. Many international students who use the IALC’s services to improve their English language skills also plan to continue their major studies at WSU, said Duran. The IALC gives them the solid foundation they need for success.
The teachers also learn from working with international students.
“Every time you teach a lesson, and you think you know what your goal is,” said Duran, “you discover the students are receiving it with a completely different set of ears. They understand it from a different context.”
Preparing for enrollment
The IALC trains international students via four programs. The primary focus is to prepare international students for enrollment at WSU.
Because IALC students have not yet passed the language proficiency requirement for U.S. university admission, they are not enrolled in regular classes. They are tested for English proficiency when they arrive at IALC and placed into one of six levels of instruction.
Those who pass level five with a 3.0 GPA are eligible to be WSU undergraduates, and those who finish level six with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 can apply to the Graduate School.
It normally takes a student about two months to complete each level of instruction.
Helping enrolled students
The IALC’s second focus is on assisting international students who are already enrolled in courses of study at WSU, but who still need language support in areas such as writing, pronunciation, listening comprehension or general conversational ability.
The IALC also provides ESL classes at night for WSU students and their spouses, and for members of the community at large.
A third IALC focus is to provide International Teaching Assistant testing — an examination of English proficiency in the classroom that state law requires of every international graduate student who receives a teaching assistantship.
Finally, the IALC provides programs, usually two to six weeks long, for groups visiting from international universities. Participants get credits at their home university as well as a cultural experience. The hope is that they will return to study at WSU.
Foundation for growth
Founded in 1984 by the late Victor Bhatia, director of both International Programs and the Honors Program, th nationally accredited IALC has grown to where there are usually about 100 students studying in the fall, 60 to 80 in the spring and 60 in the summer, with as many as five special programs going on.