Importance of Assessing the Experiences of International Students & CONAHECÔÇÖs Survey of International Students (SIS)

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By Gabriela Valdez

Thousands of international students attend institutions of higher education outside their home country every year for the first time where they have to learn how to navigate a new higher education system. A good example of the growing population of international students enrolled in higher education institutions is the case of the North American region in which it is estimated that 886,052 international students were enrolled in institutions of higher education in the U.S. (IIE, 2014) and about 89,000 international students enrolled in Canadian institutions (AUCC, 2014) during the 2013-2014 academic year. The most recent statistic available about international students in Mexico showed an estimated 7,689 students during the 2010-2011 year (ANUIES, Patlani 2012).

From an economic perspective, the North American region attracts nearly a million international students every year who are becoming an important source of revenue for many institutions of higher education as they often pay higher tuition fees, while also impacting the local economies. Some of the benefits associated with having international students on our campuses include: diversifying the student body, internationalizing the academic curriculum and expanding the way academic content is approached, all of which facilitate the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

While we recognize the importance of having a strong international student presence on our campuses, it is also important to remember that programs that have worked for North American students, might not necessarily work for other international students as their needs might be very different. Equally important is to acknowledge the need for different resources for these specific populations and commit to the development of these resources, but where do you start?

CONAHEC in collaboration with Dr. Jenny Lee from The University of Arizona has developed a Survey of International Students (SIS) which is available to member institutions at no additional cost. SIS is a tool designed to assess many aspects of the experiences of international students enrolled in institutions of higher education. By collecting ongoing feedback, member institutions can take advantage of this great tool to better serve their international student community and develop good standards of practice. At the same time, by using SIS, institutions are able to identify areas of opportunity for improvement while benchmarking their services to international students against those of other institutions.

If you are interested in assessing the experiences of international students at your institution, please contact us at to start using the Survey of International Students (SIS).