Saudi Arabian students may be looking for education elsewhere

October 7, 2015

Robert Morris University will likely be seeing less Saudi Arabian students on campus in the coming years.

The university has already been seeing a decrease of incoming Saudi students due to the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission cutting off their students from enrolling in all of RMU’s engineering and some information system programs.

“There’s a cap, that the government will only allow so many students in the program…I actually believe that we have more than the cap in some majors,” said Michelle Nedzesky, international student recruiter.

With the caps being set at about 25 students at the undergraduate level and 10 at the graduate level, Nedzesky believes that the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission still allows RMU to exceed some of the caps due to how well Saudi students are doing.

Since most enrolling Saudi students at RMU are interested in STEM programs, they are looking at other institutions that the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission will still allow them to study those specific programs.

Every year, RMU receives almost 1,000 applications from just Saudi nationals alone. There are currently 399 Saudi students enrolled out of a total of 529 international students at RMU. The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission monitors the amount of Saudi students attending a particular institution closely to avoid overpopulation.

“One of the goals of that organization is to make sure that the Saudis’ experience American culture and are actually going to school in the United States with Americans,” said Jesse Phillips, manager of immigration, exchange and study abroad services.

Qualifying Saudi students have the chance to study abroad with the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. The scholarship first launched in 2005 when the late King Abdullah and President George Bush made an agreement to increase the number of Saudi students studying in the U.S.

According to the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission’s official website, in 2012 there were over 71,000 Saudi students studying in the U.S. with approximately 3,000 enrolled in PA schools.

The scholarship includes full coverage of tuition and expenses during a Saudi student’s education. Students receive a monthly stipend, full academic tuition, medical and dental insurance, round trip airfare and academic supervision. These benefits can also be applied to help spouses and children.

Without this scholarship, many Saudi students wouldn’t have the opportunity to study in the U.S.

“If it wasn’t for this scholarship and the good benefits I’m getting…I paused my job to pursue the degree. And if it wasn’t for the scholarship, I wouldn’t do that because I have a family to support, I have rent to pay, I have a lot of stuff to do,” said Wafi Alghanim, an international student from Saudi Arabia.

… if it wasn’t for the scholarship, I wouldn’t do that because I have a family to support, I have rent to pay, I have a lot of stuff to do.

— Wafi Alghanim

Saudi Arabia has the fourth highest percentage of students studying in the U.S. with 6.1 percent, according to

With such a large population, Saudi students have brought their culture to American and other international students at RMU. These students can experience and learn more about Saudi Arabian culture by taking Arabic classes, interacting with the Saudi students, and attending Saudi National Day and other events sponsored by the Saudi Student Club.

“In the U.S., people don’t understand Muslim culture and Middle Eastern culture. I feel like at RMU, you definitely learn the culture more and I feel like that’s more of an advantage,” said Nedzesky.


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