The cultural landscape of American colleges and universities is changing. Last year marked the sixth consecutive year campuses saw an increase in international students. Chinese students make up almost one quarter of that growth.
Lin Liu is a junior double majoring in German and political science. Five years ago she was the only child of a single mother living in china.
"I met this American lady when I was in Beijing china and she was a really good friend of my mom. My mom was very busy so I started to study English and live with that American lady," said Liu.
Liu worked through necessary channels to get to America. She's not alone. International enrollment at U.S. Colleges and universities grew nearly six percent last year.
"About four percent of our student body overall, graduate and undergraduate who are from other countries, and that's up from five years ago, we probably would have had less than two percent,"said Angela Ferguson.
Angela Ferguson, director of international initiatives, says Samford University is very deliberate in its recruitment.
"We have one of our admissions counselors, a recruiter who is specifically our international recruiter. And he goes to different locations around the world. And for the country of china we specifically have two agencies that we work with," she said.
Universities realize the value of bringing students from diverse cultures to their campuses.
"For me, it's easier to find the similarities between people rather than focus on the differences. So it's easier for me to socialize," said Liu
But experts says there's another driving factor. That's money. International students pay higher out-of-state tuition. The money can help offset cuts from state funding. For example, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham international students pay nearly three times per credit hour more than an instate student.
UAB's associate provost for enrollment management says it's a new market to tap. However, he and Ferguson says the primary goal is to prepare their students for an increasingly global market.
"We think this is a why to increase the global and international diversity on our campus and help our domestic students and international students get the skills they need to be competitive and be successful in an increasingly global world,"said Ferguson.
Samford's goal is to have ten percent of its students to be from other countries. UAB's international student enrollment increased by more than 20 students from last year. The university of Alabama sees a similar trend. It saw an increase of almost three hundred students year to year.