Dane Rowley, Augustana College’s new dean of admissions, said that in September he spent a week in China in an effort to recruit international students.

The trip was the first time in years an administrator from the college in Rock Island went to China for recruiting purposes, Rowley said.

“As a private institution, our mission is to look for international students to help provide U.S. students with a global education,” he said.

Now international students make up about 1 to 2 percent of Augustana’s overall student population. Rowley said he hopes to grow that number to 5 percent in the next three to five years.

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

Rowley said China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping, has a special relationship with the Midwest, having twice visited Muscatine, including earlier this year. He also said Augustana recently hosted a group of Chinese high school students who were touring colleges throughout the Midwest. The students also visited Black Hawk College and Western Illinois University, among other stops in the area.

This new excitement comes after several years in which international student enrollment at Augustana was “flat,” Rowley said.

“Bringing international students enhances the learning experience of U.S. students,” he said. “U.S. students can interact and learn from them.”