Program efforts, scholarships attract more Saudi students, director says

The number of Saudi Arabian students who attend TCU has increased over the past year because of scholarships offered by the Saudi government to go to U.S. schools, said the director of the Intensive English Program.The scholarship program was instituted after an April 2005 meeting between King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and President Bush, said Kurk Gayle, director of the Intensive English Program. Gayle said the scholarships cover all expenses, including housing, food and tuition.

He said the first group of Saudi students came in the fall 2005.

Joan Yates, an administrative assistant for international admissions, said 15 Saudi students are enrolled in either the Intensive English Program, which aims to equip individuals of any first-language background to communicate actively in English, or TCU’s undergraduate program. Six more students are expected to join within the next three months, Yates said.

Muhammad Alowaity, a student in the Intensive English Program, said he was happy to come to the United States for the educational opportunities and to learn about American culture.

“Learning English was my dream since I was a child,” Alowaity said.

Students who come to TCU with limited English skills must make a minimum score of 79 out of 120 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or demonstrate equivalent English proficiency, which is the purpose of the program.

Fahad Alofan, who came to TCU in November 2005, was able to start as an e-business major after graduating from the Intensive English Program in May.

“They don’t offer e-business there, and TCU has a good school for that,” Alofan said of his decision to choose TCU.

John Singleton, director of International Student Services, said this collaboration between the United States and Saudi Arabia was meant to mend the relationship between the governments that were damaged after 9/11.

Singleton said TCU is one of four Dallas/Fort Worth area universities to be approved by the Saudi Arabian government for students. Southern Methodist University, the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington are the other three.

Gayle said, “The IEP nearly collapsed after Sept. 11 because the U.S. stopped granting visas to individuals.” On the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, the program had three Saudi students.

About a month after the attacks, one student was detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the other two went home for fear of discrimination, Gayle said.