Published: Aug. 26, 2010

MSU cuts red tape for record number of international students

Contact(s): Tom Oswald Communications and Brand Strategy, Peter Briggs Office for International Students and Scholars office: (517) 353-1720, Erica Shekell Office of Communications and Brand Strategy

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A record-breaking 5,300 international students are predicted to attend Michigan State University this school year.

MSU has the 10th largest number of international students in the United States, according to Open Doors, a publication of the Institute of International Education.

But attending one of the world’s largest universities isn’t without its challenges, said Peter Briggs, the director the Office for International Students and Scholars.

“The issues that international students bring are the same issues that you do, and then some,” Briggs said.

In addition to the typical problems that new students face – homesickness, financial stress and difficult course loads – international students struggle to break language barriers, secure visas and find on-campus employment. Immigration laws don’t allow them to work off campus.

That’s where the Office for International Students and Scholars comes in.

“We’re the go-to office for all of the bureaucracy: How does somebody get a visa? How do they enter the country? How do they maintain a student visa?” Briggs said. “Those are the kinds of rules and regulations that we need to know to assist our students.”

OISS also hosts a special orientation program for new international students where they can enroll in classes and learn about academic advising, tutoring services and budgeting. They may also learn about classroom etiquette and typical American social atmosphere from returning international students.

However, the signature program of the OISS is the International Coffee Hour held every Friday, Briggs said.

“It serves as a gathering point for students from other countries, anybody who wants to be part of the international community,” he said. “The Coffee Hour is the perfect place to be and hang out.”

Students can also participate in multicultural activities hosted by the Community Volunteers for International Programs and join a variety of student organizations such as the International Student Association, which boasts a membership of 4,000 students.

But it’s not just international students who benefit from MSU. Friendships with international students can help American students see issues from a different perspective, Briggs said. International students are also central to the research conducted at MSU.

“We would simply not be able to sustain the quality of the academic programs and research programs without a strong number of international students,” Briggs said.

He also said that these students contribute between $150 million and $170 million into the local economy.

In fall 2009, 5,056 international students representing 133 countries attended MSU, a 12 percent increase from the year prior. The reasons for the increase vary, including parents having to support only one child rather than several because of China’s one-child policy; countries being unable to meet all of their citizens’ needs for higher education; and a rising middle class.

Students are also attracted to the U.S. higher education system because its emphasis on the liberal arts sets it apart from other education systems.

“We promote analytical thinking and creativity,” Briggs said, “and so many of our students are coming from systems where they’re doing rote memorization.”


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Click to enlarge

Peter Briggs is the director of the MSU Office for International Students and Scholars.

Peter Briggs is the director of the MSU Office for International Students and Scholars.

This holiday season, Spartans are sharing a flurry of good will. What's your wish?
A new superpower on the horizon. Michigan State University scientists look to the sun to solve Earth's biggest problems. Read our paid post on the New York Times site