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UH Language and Culture Center sees record low enrollment

The University’s Language and Culture Center has seen a record low enrollment of 27 in their English language program for Fall 2020. | Courtesy of the Language and Culture Center

The University’s Language and Culture Center, which focuses on providing intensive English language training for international students, has experienced its lowest ever enrollment in Fall 2020.

The LCC has already assisted over 27,000 international students to improve their English proficiency during its 45 years of operation and usually sees enrollment in the hundreds each year. This semester, only 27 students have enrolled in the program.

The pandemic has impacted operations as well as enrollment, said LCC director Jodi Nelms.

“We had to completely change our curriculum and completely change our way of teaching, student activities, etc. Everything has changed,” Nelms said. 

The LCC has transitioned to a primarily online format and combined different levels of instruction based upon English fluency. In-person options still exist for international students whose visas require a certain number of face-to-face instructional hours.

The University is not alone in seeing a drop in enrollment for Intensive English Programs. The United States experienced a 3.5 percent decrease in the enrollment of international students in IEPs from 2018 to 2019, according to a 2020 report by Open Doors.

An estimated 75,379 international students were enrolled in an IEP in 2019, in comparison to 78,098 in 2018. 

During that period, the top three places of origin nationwide were China with 16,304 students, Japan with 13,039 students and Saudi Arabia with 10,660 students.

In the state of Texas alone, there was an estimated 1,000 to 5,000 students attending IEPs, per the report. 

At the University, the top three countries of origin for students participating in an IEP for Fall 2020 are China with seven students, Saudi Arabia with three students and Iraq and Colombia, each with two students.

Nelms considers IEPs an important pathway for international students headed into degree-seeking programs at UH. Moreover, the LCC supports these students as it provides them with the academic and cultural background needed to succeed at UH. 

“What we do is prepare students for English language and the academic language that they need to be successful at the University, and also the culture. We try to mirror what the University expectations are so that our students are prepared for the University itself,” said Nelms.  

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