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Recruitment, financial aid leads to rise in UWC enrollment

The number of United World Colleges (UWC) alumni that enrolled at St. Olaf College has increased from 2009 to 2016, followed by a sharp increase in 2017.

“UWC is a global education movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future,” according to the UWC website. UWC is made up of 17 schools and colleges on 4 continents.

In 2013, UWC alumni made up about 29 percent of the newly enrolled international students and about two percent of all newly enrolled students. In 2017, UWC alumni made up 50 percent of the newly enrolled international students and about six percent of all newly enrolled students.

The steady increase of UWC students from 2009 to 2016 occurred in part because St. Olaf became a Davis United World College Scholars Program partner in 2008, according to Associate Dean of Admissions Jenny Howenstine.

The Davis Scholars Program provides up to $20,000 of need-based aid each year for up to four years for each UWC alumni who enrolls in a partner school, according to the St. Olaf website. This, according to Howenstine, has resulted in more UWC students being interested in St. Olaf and St. Olaf spending more time proactively recruiting UWC students.

There was a push to increase the number of newly admitted UWC alumni just after 2008. This happened because the Davis Scholars Program only provides up to $10,000 in aid for each newly admitted former UWC student until the partner school has at least 40 UWC alumni currently attending it. At this point, students can receive up to $20,000. This helps a great deal with the sustainability of the partnership and the ability to accept UWC students with a greater range of financial need, according to Howenstine.

Howenstine said that the steady increase also might have occurred because of the new UWC campuses that have opened since 2008.

Howenstine said that, in 2017, admissions felt an increased affinity toward UWC students applying to St. Olaf.

“This year, 2017, we’re like, these applicants are awesome,” Howenstine said. “They’re coming with two years of I.B. experience, living in a residential community, just really great preparation for a U.S. liberal arts college. So we’re going to admit a significantly higher percentage because these students are well prepared and coming with a lot of different unique backgrounds.”

Some international students think that the  increased number of UWC alumni at St. Olaf has resulted in UWC alumni being perceived as more present and visible than non-UWC alumni.

UWC alumnus Ana Sofia Gonzalez ’21 thinks her social circle was impacted by her being a UWC alumnus due to the “special introductions” given to UWC alumni upon their arrival to St. Olaf. These include dinners, workshops and talks on how to adjust to life in the United States, according to Gonzalez.

Francisca Matono ’20, another alumnus of UWC, said that the strong presence of UWC alumni on campus is due in part to their high level of involvement in a variety of activities at St. Olaf.

“Most of them are really outspoken,” Matono said. “They take a lot of actions in different fields of the school.”

Trai Nguyen ’20, a non-UWC international student, thinks that some non-UWC students felt left out during the beginning of his time at St. Olaf. He recalled an incident during orientation week for the international students when UWC alumni cheered about their shared background and some of the non-UWC international students appeared upset. Nguyen also felt left out during his first year, and recounted lying to UWC alumni that he was a fellow alumnus of UWC.

Gonzalez thinks that St. Olaf would benefit from more bonding events for UWC and non-UWC international students.

“In orientation week, if you do more activities for everybody, not just UWC, we can have people know each other, whether you’re UWC or not,” Gonzalez said.

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