The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

James Robinson

Second Advisor

Robert Inkster

Third Advisor

Isolde Mueller

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Keywords and Subject Headings

Student Mobility, Intensive, English, Programs, Post-Secondary, Education


The number of students attending post-secondary institutions outside of their home countries has been increasing for the past forty years. Student mobility patterns have shifted over this period, as the result of many important political, economic, and cultural variables. One thing that has remained unchanged, however, is the ranking of the United States (US) as the number one destination country in the world. In response to the steady influx of non-native English-speaking students, many U.S. universities are now offering intensive English programs (IEP) that provide students an opportunity to improve their academic language skills in situ prior to matriculation. In many cases, successful completion of an lEP serves as one option for fulfilling the university 's English proficiency requirements (along with more traditional options, such as achieving a specific score on a standardized English proficiency examination). While much research is being conducted to analyze the decision-making processes followed by international students seeking degrees, little is being done to determine if there are differences in the process being followed by students destined for an IEP.

This study analyzes the decision-making process followed by a population of students at St. Cloud State University 's (SCSU) Intensive English Center (IEC). In particular, an attempt was made to determine what factors students felt were most important both when they decided to study in the US and when they decided to study specifically at the IEC. Data was collected using a questionnaire designed using a four-point Likert scale and short-answer format (which was administered to fifty-nine students) and semi-structured interviews (which involved nine students).

Results indicate that for most IEC students, the decision to come to the US was influenced most heavily by a desire to learn American English, the perceived value of a U.S. degree, and the perceived quality of an American education. In relation to why students selected the IEC, the top factors included wanting to get a degree from SCSU and the university's overall reputation. Significant differences were identified, however, in relation to the importance students from different regions and countries assigned to assorted factors. One of the most noteworthy differences related to the particularly strong importance students from the Middle East (who currently comprise approximately seventy percent of the IEC's student body) place on having personal connections or "social links" when selecting an institution. These results of the empirical research are combined with insights gleaned through a review of the literature to present some concrete measures SCSU/IEC administrators may wish to bear in mind when considering how to maintain a steady inflow of IEC students in the years to come.


I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to the many people who offered me support and assistance as I completed this project: the members of my committee, Dr. Robert Inkster, Dr. Isolde Mueller, and Dr. James Robinson; Dr. Randy Kolb and his team at the SCSU Statistical Consulting Center; Ms. Susan Boehm and her colleagues at the SCSU Center for International Studies; my peer mentor, Ms. Amanda Shofner; the faculty and staff of the IEC; and all of the students who participated in the study. My heartfelt thanks also go to all of my colleagues in the MA/TESL program for the support they have provided me, be it allowing me into their classrooms or helping to keep me sane and smiling. I am also grateful to my parents for being my unwavering cheering section. Finally, I thank all of the IEC students, who I think have taught me more than I ever could have taught them. I am glad that the road led us all to St. Cloud.



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