In 2010 there were 21 students from the Middle East enrolled at UVU. Today there are 45 with the majority from Saudi Arabian students, with an increase from 4 to 28 since 2010.
In hopes of improving education scores, the Saudi Arabian government offers scholarships to students who choose to study in the U.S. Tuition and books are paid for, for students like Mohammed Shami, a 20-year-old UVU student from Jeddah. Additionally he receives a monthly salary of $1,850 to help pay for housing, food, and entertainment.
In 2011, Shami came to the U.S. to learn English and chose to attend UVU for the aviation program. Although his decision to attend college in America was not an easy one, it was important to his family and for his future.
“My father told me in order to be successful I need to learn English,” Shami said. “So even though I didn’t want to leave my family and friends, I knew it was important that I come here.”
According to Shami, the ESL program offered at UVU is the main reason why so many Saudi Arabian students have chosen to enroll. Unlike other universities in Utah, UVU does not require students to take additional language tests if they finish the ESL program with sufficient scores. With the safe and friendly community, and affordable cost of living, Utah attracts many Saudi Arabian students.
“When I first came to the United States, I lived in D.C. where rent and everything was so expensive,” Shami said. “It has been nice living here where my monthly salary pays for more than just my rent.”
Dinar Kunakaev, president of the International Student Council, attributes the increase of Middle Eastern students to the growth of UVU.
“In order for a university to be on the approved list of schools, it must be a 4-year university,” Kunakaev said. “I think this change has helped many students decide to come here.”
The majority of Saudi Arabian students do not plan on prolonging their Utah residency post graduation, but while they are here, they all must maintain passing grades in every class in order to keep their scholarships. As for Shami, he plans on finishing his bachelor’s degree at UVU, obtaining his pilot license, and returning to his homeland.
By Melissa Lindsey