Inside of the International Education Exchange Council Council room captured through the window of the door at the Cesar Chavez Student Center at SF State on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. (David Jones / Golden Gate Xpress) (David Jones)
Inside of the International Education Exchange Council Council room captured through the window of the door at the Cesar Chavez Student Center at SF State on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. (David Jones / Golden Gate Xpress)

David Jones

International student enrollment at SF State continues to fall

Over the past 10 years, SF State’s international student population has continued to decline

March 5, 2023

SF State recruited 980 international students in fall 2022, representing 3.7% of the total students on campus. Over the past three years, however,  recruitment has declined by as much as 16 %, according to the Office of International Programs (IOP), which is responsible for implementing the university’s international exchange and education goals and initiatives.

Staffing shortages, university competition, cost of living, access to scholarships, rent and the pandemic are among the factors contributing to the decline in international student recruitment at San Francisco State University, according to Director of Outreach Israeli Alilin.

For now, the IOP team consists of one full-time and one part-time recruiter, in addition to another member who helps when available, according to Alilin.  

“Right now, they haven’t given me a budget,” Alilin stated.

Mexican international student Grecia Gomez Lugo, 22, rents a room in a house in Daly City, which she shares with three people at $700 a month.

“If you are interested in having your university known nationally you want to work on that. You could give a few more scholarships, or financial aid for students to come here; also improve the marketing strategy in general, so that the university is known and people are interested in it,” Gomez Lugo said.

Gómez Lugo will continue taking her classes until July 2023, when her visa expires. She will return to Monterrey, Mexico where she will continue taking her final classes to finish a degree in marketing.

For the time being, Gomez Lugo will continue to enjoy her access to the Mashouf Wellness Center, where she does some of the workout routines she enjoys.

For now, one of the colleges that have collaborated and facilitated the increase in international students at SF State has been the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) according to the IOP office.

“The accreditation issues CCSF experienced around 2014 affected our number of students transferring to SF State,” Alilin stated.

 SF State’s outreach department proposed a trip to India in April 2023. This would be the first international attempt to attract prospective international students, if the budget is approved by Vice President Jamillah Moore.

Beth Hellwig, the now retired vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management (SAEM) planned the trip to India in spring 2020, but had to cancel it due to the pandemic. 

Following the pandemic the OIP outreach team has continued its recruitment efforts virtually in various regions, including: India, China, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada and South America.

“The number of international students at SF State has been trending downward since approximately 2013,” interim assistant vice president Marilyn J. Jackson wrote via email.

The top three countries showing higher international student enrollments at SF State are: India (333), China (166) and Japan (61), according to OIP’s Fall 2022 statistics.

Over the past five years, the outreach office has focused most of its recruitment on India. For now it represents the strongest recruitment on behalf of the university according to the IOP.

College Factual ranks SF State 135th out of 1279 colleges and universities in popularity among international students.

“Many students from India apply for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors, which allows them up to three years of optional practical training (OPT) for full-time work after graduation,” Alilin said.

“San Francisco is especially attractive to STEM students because of the proximity to Silicon Valley and the possibility of working at companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Meta, etc. Whether they work at those companies or not, the idea is very attractive,” Alilin stated. 

SF State will continue to conduct in-person recruiting within the domestic market, but with no overseas travel yet, and with partner agents to ensure its presence in certain key regions, including China, Southeast Asia and India.

California was the top host state for international students in 2021/22 and the San Francisco metro area was the seventh leading host for international students according to the annual Open Doors report.

Open Doors is an annual report sponsored by the Department of State, supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which provides information on international students at institutions of higher education in the country.

The report confirms that the majority of students in the state of California were from China, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan and that the University of Southern California at Los Angeles (USC) received the most international students.

In an official statement, SF State President Lynn Mahoney’s press office stated:

“We are very pleased that in fall 2022 we are beginning to see a modest increase in the number of international students at SF State after a sharp decline in international and domestic student enrollment during the pandemic.”

According to the statement, the increase in international student enrollment is part of a national trend as the world goes back to traveling abroad and SF State sees international students as a potential growth area for increasing enrollment.

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About the Contributors
Photo of Andy Damián-Correa
Andy Damián-Correa, Staff Reporter
Andy Damián-Correa (he/they) is a bilingual reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. He is majoring in Bilingual Spanish Journalism. He was born in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico but grew up in the rural town of Cancun, Quintana Roo. Damián-Correa began his career in hotel and restaurant management, and he moved into journalism to create awareness of the challenges faced by the Latinx community. He currently lives in San Francisco. He served as reporter and editor for the college’s award-winning Etc. Magazine and The Guardsman, both City College of San Francisco publications. Damián-Correa was recently honored by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges Northern California division for his column writing. He is an executive producing Anchor’s Podcast, a weekly online Spanish language publication. He is the President San Francisco Student Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). During his free time, Damián-Correa enjoys reading and swimming.


Andy Damián-Correa (él/ellos) es un reportero bilingüe de Golden Gate Xpress. Se está especializando en Periodismo Bilingüe en Español. Nació en Tenosique, Tabasco, México pero creció en el pueblo rural de Cancún, Quintana Roo. Damián-Correa comenzó su carrera en la administración de hoteles y restaurantes, y pasó al periodismo para crear conciencia sobre los desafíos que enfrenta la comunidad Latinx. Actualmente vive en San Francisco. Se desempeñó como reportero y editor de la premiada revista Etc. Magazine y The Guardsman, ambas publicaciones del City College of San Francisco. Damián-Correa fue honrado recientemente por la división de la Asociación de Periodismo de Colegios Comunitarios del Norte de California por escribir una columna. Es productor ejecutivo de Anchor's Podcast, una publicación semanal en línea en español. Es el Presidente del Capítulo Estudiantil de San Francisco de la Asociación Nacional de Periodistas Hispanos (NAHJ). Durante su tiempo libre, a Damián-Correa le gusta leer y nadar.
Photo of David Jones
David Jones, Staff Photographer
David Jones (he/they) is a photographer for Golden Gate Xpress. He is majoring in photojournalism and minoring in sociology. He was born in Oakland, California and raised in Hayward, California. His passions are concerts/editorial photography, poetry and searching for new ways of creative expression. During his free time, he enjoys reading, writing poetry, self-reflection and listening to music.

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