Small town charms attract fewer students in the US each year. Why? It seems calm environment, opportunity to focus on learning and strong ties with local community apparently don’t provide enough excitement for most.
Could this seeming decline in small liberal arts colleges be turned into an opportunity for international student recruitment?
Would that work out?
First of all, let’s talk about the top 3 reasons why fewer students choose small town liberal arts colleges:
1. These colleges used to attract mostly local students
While in the past it was harder to be mobile and travel to study to another state or town, today it’s way too easy. If you can move to another city and explore the opportunities there, why would you stay at your hometown?
2. Liberal arts are less attractive as a subject
Changing economies mould the preferences of students and their parents. Most of them want to pursue practical degrees with good employability prospects. Liberal arts colleges cannot cater for this requirement.
3. Colleges in small towns provide less diversity
Students who can choose between their hometown and a city will choose the latter for many reasons. These include a vivid nightlife or simply the chance to embrace a new environment, to name a few.
Then how could such an opportunity be attractive to international students?
Let’s look at the top 3 three reasons why small-town liberal arts colleges in the US should not be so easily dismissed.
1. Liberal arts is a degree that you seek for your own improvement
It’s true that most international students seek a degree in STEM or economics. However, there is a growing percentage that take up liberal arts for the sake of their own personal development. This is especially the case after they’ve already accomplished their goals in other fields. Small towns are the perfect places to immerse yourself into a different culture, work on your own projects and develop new skills.
2. A small town is a microcosm of a country
There is no better way to see the real America than to stay in a small town, talk to locals and grab a beer together in the local diner. Small towns enjoy slower pace of life that allows you to absorb the real spirit of the country.
3. Less stress and cultural shock
Liberal arts are about critical thinking, personal projects and social interactions. In this sense, getting a degree in a small town allows international students to explore these topics and improve their language at their own pace. We all know that studying abroad can be quite challenging due to the language differences, cultural shock or simple homesickness. Small towns might then be the perfect place to learn and adapt to the new culture in a less stressful way.
Overall, we think that liberal arts colleges in small US towns have the potential to grow as a trend, both for local and international students. Of course, it’s important not to forget to check how your students are doing. But hopefully soon we will start seeing more diversified student bodies even in small town institutions. After all, the value goes both ways. Small towns usually need more diversity and will get just as much from such interaction as the international students who choose them.
So, what do you think about this? Is it possible to attract more international students to small towns?
Let us know in the comments!