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Portrait of Tanvi Rawtani

International student enrollment reaches record high

By Blake Sebring

October 3, 2023

Including a 30-hour flight from India, and various disruptions caused by a delayed 2 a.m. arrival, things could have fallen apart for Tanvi Chandru Rawtani’s in-person introduction to Purdue University Fort Wayne. Instead, the freshman found a friendly home.

“The PFW community is very warm and welcoming,” Rawtani said. “I’m really, really poor with directions, and I’m always switching my rights and lefts and ending up in different places I don’t want to be. And the people I’ve been asking for help have been very kind. This place is also very beautiful.”

Rawtani represents the largest group of first-year international students in PFW history—182 from 22 countries—which adds to the university’s diversity and intellectual distinction. In all, PFW has 499 international students hailing from 62 countries. There are 334 graduate students and 165 undergrads.

The total number of international students on campus has grown significantly over the last six years, with the only dip coming at the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

  • 2023: 499
  • 2022: 375
  • 2021: 283
  • 2020: 245
  • 2019: 287
  • 2018: 263
  • 2017: 227

Enrollment figures for international graduate students have increased the most in recent years, up from 96 in 2020.

The top five countries represented are India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, the Republic of Korea, and Ghana. The top three undergrad majors for international students are computer science, biology, and business. Top graduate fields of study are computer science, biology, and engineering.

“I think a lot of that has to do with our increased collaboration with West Lafayette, aligning ourselves as a Purdue campus,” said Ryan Wooley, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management. “That has increased our brand reputation abroad and ultimately it’s what has triggered this increase.”

There’s also been increased attention given to recruiting international students, largely from the Office of International Education, which supports the students year-round.

“Even before I came here, the international education team was very generous answering any questions I had,” Rawtani said. “I did not know a lot of people here, didn’t know what to bring and not, so I was constantly emailing people, and they had really prompt responses. They made me feel at home before stepping into the U.S. It gave me, and even my family, a bit of relief that I was going to a good place that was going to be good for me.”

Wooley calls the international education staff “absolutely phenomenal,” pointing out their ability to build relationships. The team is made up of Maureen Linvill, director of international education, Kerri Gouty, MBA ’20, assistant director for international admissions, and Shelby Mansfield, B.S. ’14, international services coordinator.

“They truly care about the students on an individual level, and they go above and beyond to ensure each of those students have the best experience they possibly can,” Wooley said. “They really are some PFW all-time greats.”

Their work includes helping the students from the moment they apply with immigration, orientation, enrollment—all throughout their PFW careers. The office also holds annual events such as the Nov. 13–19 International Education Week, which culminates on Nov. 17 with a Global Student Celebration to showcase their contributions and accomplishments.

“We can learn so much from their perspective and their cultures, and not just what the classroom can provide,” Wooley said. “It just goes to enhance our whole educational environment from many perspectives.”

Linvill describes an emphasis on customer service as being a big factor in helping make the university a destination of choice for international students.

“We have seen more students apply due to word of mouth from friends/family that are either currently attending or have recently graduated from PFW,” Linvill said. “Our office prides itself on quick responses, as we know that students, and their families, are trying to get answers to make a major life decision. We have been told from students, that they appreciate our quick answers and many times that has led to their decision to join PFW.”

Another factor is the willingness of current PFW international students to help the rookies feel welcome. Rawtani said three fellow students from India upon her arrival helped arrange her transportation to campus, get to the student housing clubhouse, retrieve her luggage, and gain entrance to her apartment.

To see all the current international student data, click here to visit that section of PFW’s By the Numbers webpage.