Comparing Academic Concerns of International and Domestic Students

Comparing Academic Concerns of International and Domestic Students

Cody J. Perry (University of Wyoming, USA), David W. Lausch (University of Wyoming, USA) and Jennifer Weatherford (University of Wyoming, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3451-8.ch013


A survey was given to 115 students at a Western U.S. land grant university to further explore academic issues for both international and domestic students. Students' most important concerns were class discussions, collaboration with other students, and understanding the requirements of one's degree. International students had more difficulty knowing on whom to rely in the academic system when compared to domestic students. Furthermore, domestic students found textbooks harder to understand than international students. Both groups of students may benefit from a better understanding of specific academic issues that students face and this study sought to clarify academic issues among both groups of students.
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Although some private universities have a large endowment, many others rely heavily on state legislatures and tuition to support the work of the university. However, American institutions were only able to use tuition to cover 44% of operating costs in 2012 (Han, 2014). This study was performed at a university challenged by an enormous budget cut and one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. Furthermore, the proportion of international students outpaces the national average by 2% (Institute of International Education, 2016). Yet, administration has not made improved retention and recruitment of international students a priority in fixing the situation. Rather, the university has decided to cut costs and faculty positions to solve the issue. This may also be the case at many other institutions facing budget issues. However, improved retention through addressing academic needs may aid in alleviating some of these financial issues. In previous studies, students cited academic matters like course structure, discussions, and study skills as significant obstacles (Abel, 2002; Fenton-Smith & Michael, 2013; Pan & Wong, 2011). In fact, 74% of international students and 65% of domestic students shared concerns about their academic pursuits (Grayson, 2008). Furthermore, Yi (2007) found that 45.9% of international students’ need for academic assistance was quite common and sometimes overwhelming. Yet, in most of the studies consulted, academics was a catchall term that did not address specific issues. In those studies that attempted to go beyond the generic term, only a few academic topics were addressed. According to Seidman (2012), in order to protect retention, universities must have early, intensive, and continuous interventions to help students. Yet, this cannot be accomplished unless universities understand the explicit issues that students have. Therefore, this study attempted to gain insight into specific academic obstacles for international and domestic students. Rather than using academics as an overarching term, the researchers delved into specific concerns that could have fallen under the umbrella of academics in previous studies. These concerns include lectures, discussions, course and degree requirements, textbooks, and grades.

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