A global college in the Midwest: Luther College sees highest number of international student applicants


International Student Application 2004-2021; data source: Jon Lund

More international students than ever have applied to Luther, increasing the international ties in Decorah’s rural community. In the last 17 years, the number of international student applicants has risen from 319 to 628, with a peak in 2020 of 735 applicants. In just under a decade, Luther has had nearly a two hundred percent increase in international student applicants. The number of actual international students enrolled at Luther has also increased, from just 93 students in 2004 to 173 students from 62 countries in 2021. 

According to the Director of International Admission Jon Lund, Luther’s small community benefits greatly from the international students that attend the college.

“We want to be globally connected by having international students here,” Lund said. “We would not be doing a good job of educating future Luther students if we didn’t help connect them to the broader world, and that occurs by having people like [international students] here who are not from the United States, and it also occurs by us sending students through study abroad programs all over the world.”
The data which Lund provided shows that more international students are showing interest in attending Luther every year. Most international students who come to Luther are recruited from a United World College (UWC), which is a global network of educational institutions. For former UWC students like Cecilia Gomes (‘23), the college’s initiatives on sustainability, community, and academics all work to make Luther a great option for international applicants, and reflect the mission of UWC schools. 

“Luther’s mission in many ways is similar, or it reminds me of, the United World College mission, which is to make education a force to unite people,” Gomes said. “I wanted to go to a college that could help me grow physically, mentally, spiritually, academically, and intellectually, and I really think Luther has that. Also, the commitment to sustainability, not all colleges or universities have interest in sustainable communities. So, all these factors combined, I really think that Luther would be a great place to go. And my experience this far has been a way of confirming my prediction of what the experience [at] Luther looks like.”

Other international students share similar feelings. Coming to Decorah from Vietnam, Michelle Bui (‘25) expressed her regard for the experiences Lutther has provided. 

 “I feel really engaged and involved in everything,” Bui said. “[Luther] gave me a sense of inclusion and gave me a sense of community. It’s inclusive, and I can contribute more to make a better community.” 

Currently, the college has around 173 international students from 62 countries, and that number is projected to grow.