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NAMPA — Within the last 10 years, the faces of Canyon County colleges and universities have changed.

As each fall semester begins, more and more international students are attending The College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University. It’s a trend college officials attribute, in part, to globalization and quality education. But, the biggest contributor to the increase might be much more simple.

“One of the main reasons is students come based on word of mouth,” said Sage Mwiinga, C of I International Student Program coordinator. Students already at the school send word home about their experiences and in turn family and friends enroll.

“... the Internet helps. Just being able to know those options are there — it’s (higher education) something that students can aspire toward,” Mwiinga said.

Rich Vasquez, assistant director of admissions at NNU, said he believes many of the international students at his university place great value on a Christian education, something they might not find in their home countries.

Both Vasquez and Mwiinga said small class size and one-on-one attention draw many international students toward their institutions.

At NNU, the numbers haven’t increased greatly — only a few students since 2009 — but, Arnold Hernandez said in the 19 years he’s been at C of I, the change has been drastic.

“I was hired back then to start this department because the college really understood the importance of bringing in this diverse population to help all students,” Hernandez, director of the International and Multicultural Department, said. “The past seven or eight years, it has boomed.”

Mwiinga said in his five years at C of I, the number has gone from about 30 international students to about 100, representing almost 50 different countries. Fifteen percent of C of I’s students are international, outranking NNU, Boise State University and University of Idaho by at least 9 percent in the category, according to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics.

Francisco Salinas, director of student diversity and inclusion at BSU, said a large portion of its international students in the last two years are from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission partners with students from the country to help them pay for education in the U.S. BSU is one of the schools SACM sends its students.

Each of the three Treasure Valley institutions have centers specifically for international students to assist in everything from the cultural change and immigration issues to student clubs and networking. They vary, officials say, depending on the size of school and international student population.

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