Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership



First Reader/Committee Chair

Fiene, Jay


The purpose of Understanding Why International Student Applicants Choose a Public Four-Year Institution was to apply a mixed-methods research approach to California State University, San Bernardino’s (CSUSB) international student population to better understand the factors associated with an international student’s decision-making processing to study abroad.

Internationalization by institutions reflects the current two million international students studying around the world. In recent years internationalization has become more of an economic driving force, whereas in the past it was an opportunity for diversifying knowledge and research. Studies on push and pull factors reflect reasons why international students have decided to go abroad. Factors range from lack of access at home institutions for various programs to the desire to learn about Western culture. Seeing as the population of these studies is so diverse ethnically and culturally, it is important to be mindful of the various forms of capital students possess as an international student and the uniqueness this brings to each students experience.

A questionnaire was utilized to gather quantitative data to provide descriptive statistics of the population, and interviews were conducted with participants to acquire the rich stories. The questionnaire submissions resulted in 52 returned surveys for a response rate of five percent. Six interviews were conducted, which provided a diverse group of international student representation for the analysis of the rich text allowing for a strong understanding of this specific case study.

Based on the interviews conducted, responses reflected many of those that previous studies found. All but one interviewee mentioned the costs of attending as a deciding factor. Reputation of the institution and prestige of a US degree were also factors mentioned by the majority of participants. Both participants from African countries mentioned a lack of program availability as a reason to go abroad, while both Indian participants mentioned the desire to work after graduating for experience before returning home. Interestingly, most participants mentioned a connected family member to either the institution itself or the state of California as a reason for choosing CSUSB.

The data that were collected for the purposes of this study did show some correlation to previous studies findings. The qualitative data proved useful in better understanding the needs of specific students, while also alluding to potential geographic considerations that need to be had when recruiting abroad and meeting the needs of international students around the world.