A substantial jump in the number of graduate-level international students enrolled in the University of St. Thomas’ Graduate Programs in Software Engineering contributed to an overall increase in the number of international students studying here this fall.

According to data from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, the Software Engineering’s overall enrollment of 648 students is an increase of 12 percent over last year. However, the percentage of international students increased from 24 percent last year to 32 percent this year.

This year about one percent of undergraduates and 7.2 percent of graduate students come from other countries. When graduate and undergraduate enrollments are combined, 4.2 percent are international students, compared to 2.9 percent in fall 1998.

Where do the software students come from?

Most of the graduate software students come from India and China, with others also coming from Canada as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Taiwan. How do people from around the world learn about a software degree program in St. Paul, Minn.?

“Word of mouth is our best form of advertising,” explained Dr. Bernice Folz, who has directed the program since its 1985 founding. “We do careful tracking of how students hear about the program, and word of mouth always comes out on top.”

But the software students also use the tools of their trade to track down information.

“Many of our potential students learn about the program by searching the World Wide Web,” Folz said. “I receive three, four and sometimes five e-mail inquiries about the program each week. We answer all e-mail immediately and if they request it, send potential students a packet of information.”

As a result, students give consistently high marks to the quick response and service provided by the department.

And for word-of-mouth advertising to work, you have to have a quality product. Many international students — pleased with their education and the job opportunities that follow — have told their friends and relatives back home about the St. Thomas software program, which has helped it grow to be the largest of its kind in the world. Some international software graduates who are now working are bringing family members or friends here and sponsoring them in the program.

Another key factor, Folz said, is the job market in the software engineering field. International students, after they have completed four courses, are allowed to find work here. They are highly successful in using networking to find both temporary and permanent employment. Most of the international software graduates wind up staying and working in the Twin Cities or elsewhere in the United States. “I think many would return to their countries if jobs were available there,” Folz said. “There are some graduate programs like ours overseas, but not the jobs. Those are here.”

Language doesn’t seem to be a barrier to the international students, either at school or in their jobs. “They are very hardworking and disciplined students,” Folz noted. “You never hear them complain that the studies are hard or there is too much homework. They come here prepared to work very hard to earn a degree and find a job.”

Students of color

The number of American students of color studying at St. Thomas is approximately the same as in 1998. This year, 9.4 percent of undergraduates are students of color, compared to 9.3 percent in 1998 and 9.4 percent in 1997. At the graduate level, 7.2 percent are students of color, which compares to 7.8 percent in 1998 and 7.2 in 1997.

When graduate and undergraduate enrollments are combined, 12.4 percent are American students of color or international students. This compares to 11.5 percent in 1998.

Persistence rate remains persistently high

The freshman persistence rate, which is the percentage of freshmen who were enrolled last year and who returned this fall, is 86 percent. That’s the same as last year. The four previous years, however, the rate was 83 percent.

U.S. News and World Report magazine uses the persistence rate, and data on how many students graduate within six years, as a significant component for its annual fall rankings of colleges and universities. This year St. Thomas ranked 9th overall among 123 Midwestern colleges and universities, but in the “graduation and retention” component of the overall score, St. Thomas ranked 7th of the 123.

The most recent data show that 45 percent of St. Thomas students graduate within four years. However, that percentage jumps to 64 percent within five years and 66 percent within six years.

Percentage of Catholic students down slightly

This year 45 percent of all St. Thomas students are Catholic, compared to 47 percent last year. At the undergraduate level, 54 percent of students are Catholic, compared to 57 percent last year. At the graduate level, 36 percent are Catholic, compared to 37 percent last year.

Record-high resident students

A record-high 2,078 students are living on campus this fall. This compares to 2,030 last fall, and 1,696 in 1997. Last year’s big increase was due chiefly to the construction of Morrison Hall. This year’s number includes 77 students who live at the undergraduate St. John Vianney Seminary (compared to 81 last year) and 78 living at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity (compared to 66 last year).

So with fewer commuters, where’s the extra parking?

If you drive to the main campus here are some numbers of interest. The number of commuter students at the St. Paul campus this year is 5,236, down significantly from last year’s 6,057. Does that mean there are 800 fewer commuters looking for a parking space? For an answer, you’ve got to dig a little deeper into the numbers. There are 3,156 undergraduate commuters on the St. Paul campus this year, which is actually more than last year’s 3,144. The big drop comes at the graduate level: 2,080 commuters this year compared to 2,913 last year. Since the majority of undergrads use the campus in the day, and the majority of graduate students attend classes in the evening, that helps explain why daytime parking doesn’t seem easier this year. The big drop in St. Paul graduate-level commuters is attributed to
the School of Education move this summer from its longtime home on Summit Avenue to Opus Hall in downtown Minneapolis.

Staff and faculty

The university currently has 1,750 employees. The number consists of 680 faculty and 1,070 staff. Of the faculty, 348 are full time and 332 are part time.

St. Thomas Enrollment Numbers

As announced earlier, the largest freshman class in its 114-year history contributed to a record-high enrollment this fall at St. Thomas. According to figures released by the university’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning, total enrollment stands at 10,955, a 2 percent increase over last year’s 10,790, which also had been a record. Undergraduate enrollment this fall is a record 5,399; the previous record was 5,304 last fall. Graduate-level enrollment is a record 5,556; up from last year’s 5,486. The previous record, set in 1995, was 5,513.