COVID not preventing some international students to achieve their goals

Both UW-La Crosse and Viterbo University taking financial hits due to international enrollment decrease

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – UW-La Crosse and Viterbo University are taking a hit financially for international student enrollment.

The main reason why is because of problems with the pandemic.

But, COVID isn’t preventing some students from traveling to their second homes.

Harry Hauserman is a freshman at Viterbo University.

“I’m from London,” Harry said. “So, quite far away.”

Vanessa Kaja, Maiken Vigre, and Oliver Vasanoja are all seniors at UWL.

“I’m from the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Vanessa said.

“Norway,” Maiken said.

“And Finland,” Oliver said.

They each all have their own reasons why they are in La Crosse.

“So I wanted to come somewhere where I can study and play soccer at the same time,” Harry said.

“As a science major, I need extra experience with my labs,” Vanessa said.

“I have some field experience things this year,” Maiken said. “So that would be really hard to do that over in Norway.”

“I was hoping to play football,” Oliver said.

Their goals are harder to achieve because of COVID. But that didn’t stop them from going back to college.

“It’s not gonna go away within a day, so you might as well make the most of it,” Harry said.

“We weren’t gonna stay home and miss out on our last year here, essentially,” Oliver said.

While these four are sticking through it, others are scaling back.

“A lot of those students for fall 2020 ended up either cancelling admissions due to the pandemic, or deferring to spring or the following fall,” UWL international admissions counselor Heather Pearson said.

When COVID struck, U.S. embassies around the world closed most of their services.

“To come to the United States, students need to interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate to get a student visa,” Pearson said. “And so, we noticed with a lot of our students, they just simply ran out of time to go to their visa interview.”

Fewer foreign students means less dollars pouring in.

Pearson says before the pandemic, international students at UWL supported nearly $4 million to the community.

UWL won’t know the financial outcome from this semester until late next year.

“There has been a reduction of the staff in the office of international education & engagement,” Pearson said. “Some of it is permanent cuts. Some of it is temporary cuts.”

Fortunately, there haven’t been any cuts made at Viterbo.

“We did actually enroll more students than we had expected,” Viterbo director of international admissions Kenneth Felts said. “The men’s soccer team helped us tremendously with that.”

Why is partially why Hauserman is at Viterbo right now.

“The people here, the professors, the standard of soccer,” Harry said. “Yeah, I’m really enjoying it.”

Despite this strange year, Vanessa, Maiken, and Oliver will all have their own American stories to tell once they graduate.

“I think just being able to come here and get an education to start off with, we’re really to get that because we get something different than a lot of our peers,” Maiken said.

Felts says Viterbo’s international enrollment last fall was 55. This year it’s in the upper 40s.
Meanwhile, Pearson says UWL last fall enrolled around 100 foreign students. It has a little under 50 this semester.