UM International Student Enrollment Hits Record High

October 13, 2014

MISSOULA – More international students are choosing to attend the University of Montana than ever before. UM’s Office of International Programs reports 832 international students enrolled this semester, representing about 5 percent of the entire student population, compared to about 4 percent last year.

“This increase shows that this student demographic is the fastest-growing right now,” UM Office of International Programs Director Paulo Zagalo-Melo said. “We should pay attention to the potential that lies in having many international students, both financially and educationally.”

International students pay out-of-state tuition, bringing important revenue to UM, but Zagalo-Melo said the gain goes far beyond the finances.

“We gain a more globally minded community,” he said. “We become more proficient on intercultural communication. We gain global competence.”

And the more international students UM educates, he said, the more international exposure it receives.

“Every single time we have an international student here, we are expanding our visibility for free,” Zagalo-Melo said. “If they have a good experience here, they’ll become our indirect recruiters. It’s a great network that we are building.”

Students from Brazil account for the biggest increase in enrollment, more than doubling from last spring’s 45 students to more than 100 enrolled this semester. Zagalo-Melo said UM’s improved marketing and recruiting strategies are starting to produce results, and education trends, especially in Brazil, Saudi Arabia and China, are driving the increase of international students in the U.S., thus deserving special attention by the Office of International Programs.

In China, a growing middle class and an overloaded educational system are sending more students to America for their studies. UM has about 90 Chinese students this semester.

 Both Brazil and Saudi Arabia recently introduced large government-funded study abroad programs, making it easier for students from those countries to relocate to the U.S. for their education. Currently, 105 students from Brazil are enrolled at UM, second only to Japan’s 109 students and to the Philippines’ 168 students (although most of these students are taking online courses in the health professions). Nearly 80 students from Saudia Arabia are enrolled at UM this fall.

 Zagalo-Melo said U.S. universities have a growing world-class reputation and are attracting more international students. UM is a member of the Study Abroad Foundation, a nonprofit organization that builds study abroad programs for students from several countries at a number of American universities. Of about 30 U.S. universities in the network, UM received the highest number of students this fall. Most UM students recruited through SAF come from Japan and Korea.

 “There has to be international recruitment,” Zagalo-Melo said. “We are working very heavily on developing a recruitment strategy that connects the trends in the international education market with what we have to do in terms of recruitment and trying to implement it in a timely manner.”

During the past year, UM changed its recruitment model to use different core messages and distribution channels when recruiting internationally. Recruiters developed specific materials and strategies for marketing overseas students.

“For international students, the first and most important pitch is the academic program,” Zagalo-Melo said. “First you have to show UM is a good academic fit for them.”

 The new strategies were used recruiting in Brazil last fall, and recruiters are beginning to use the new recruiting techniques in other countries this year. Zagalo-Melo expects the changes to translate to an even-larger international student body next fall. 

The international students attending UM this fall come from 81 different countries. Nearly half of them chose business administration, health professions or intensive English as their field of study. For more information call Zagalo-Melo at 406-243-6818 or email


Contact: Paulo Zagalo-Melo, UM Office of International Programs director, 406-243-6818,