Amid Diplomatic Spat, MSU to Accept Saudi Arabian Transfer Students from Canada

Sep 3, 2018

Saudi Arabian students comprise the second largest international student population on the MSU campus, second only to China, according to university officials.
Credit Scott Harvey / KSMU

A tweet on August 3 sent out by the Canadian Global Affairs Ministry caused an uproar across the Atlantic Ocean.  The tweet called for the immediate release of two jailed female bloggers in Saudi Arabia.  The spat between the two countries has since escalated. And now, some Saudi students going to college in Canada are set to transfer to American universities—including Missouri State University.

In the wake of the diplomatic spat, Saudi students who are on scholarships from the Saudi Arabian government have been asked to transfer out of Canadian universities. Many of them are now looking at American schools instead.

Patrick Parnell is the director of international services at MSU.  He said the university plans to welcome Saudi transfer students to the Springfield campus, although he doesn’t yet know how many will be coming.

“If we can increase our number of Saudi students, whether they’re coming from Canada or coming from Saudi Arabia, that will only be a benefit to our international student population and really to the institution as a whole, in my opinion,” Parnell said.

Last year, MSU saw a decline in international student enrollment, partly due to a change in US immigration policy toward certain countries.

Maan Ayyash, president of the Saudi Student Association at MSU, is working directly with these students for a smooth transfer. He visited the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in D.C. when he heard the news that students may be transferring.

“They’re very shook. It’s all happened all of a sudden. A lot of the students that have contacted me are seniors," Ayyash said.

Transferring credit hours will be decided by the university departments. Maan said he is also working with Springfield Public Schools and local housing options, since some of the students already have families.

“Their kids are in schools in Canada, and now they’re asked to leave and go to another country. They’re very frustrated slash uncertain about what their future is going to look like,” Ayyash said.

The university hopes to receive a large number of Saudi transfer students, Maan said. The majority of Saudi Arabian students already admitted to the university have deferred to the spring semester.