9/11 hurt international enrollment at U.S. colleges, universities
Share with others:
International student enrollment in American colleges and universities has taken a beating since 9/11, but it may have bottomed out.
The annual Open Doors report, to be released today, indicates the number of international students remained basically steady in 2005-06 at 564,766, compared with about 565,000 the previous school year.
Another sign that the decline may be turning around is the number of new enrollments for 2005-06 grew by 8 percent. And an online survey taken for seven organizations last month showed that more than half of schools reported increases in new enrollments of international students over a year earlier.
International enrollment had been declining in recent years, but the percentage of decline lessened in the report released last year.
The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education, an international education and training organization, with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
"We continue to see positive signs," said Allan Goodman, institute president.
"We all have to work really hard to make sure they become realities. By working hard, university leaders have to speak out and go abroad and say, 'We really welcome international students on our campus.' "
He said such visits can help to dispel the perception since Sept. 11, 2001, that "America is unwelcoming and that it's hard to get a visa. The reality is very different for students."
Mr. Goodman noted that this week a delegation of about a dozen American college presidents, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Dina Habib Powell are visiting Japan, Korea and China as the first high-profile delegation to encourage foreign students to come to the United States.
Victor Johnson, associate executive director for public policy of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, a professional association that promotes international student exchanges, doesn't share Mr. Goodman's optimism.
"In terms of foreign students coming to the U.S., it's a pretty dismal picture. This is the third consecutive year of no-growth in the number, four years really if you count the fraction of 1 percent growth we had three years ago," Mr. Johnson said.
"Meanwhile, these students are going someplace else, and other countries are getting the benefits of them."
Unlike some other countries, he said, the United States has failed to adopt national strategies that make schools more attractive to foreign students.
Before 9/11, the number of international students had been growing by 5 percent or more a year. Even so, Mr. Johnson said the United States already was beginning to lose market share as international competition for students increased.
Locally, some colleges are finding they are still attractive to foreign students, with numbers either holding steady or growing.
At Carnegie Mellon University, Mike Hall, associate director of admission, said this year there are 278 international freshmen, making up about 19 percent of the class, many of them from Asia, including South Korea, China and India.
He said the number has been growing steadily since 184 international freshmen were enrolled in fall 2002 and again in fall 2003.
He said Carnegie Mellon travels once a year with some other universities to recruit students at prep schools and American schools in places like Japan and Korea.
He said the visa process can be "daunting," but "a lot of students who want to come to CMU realize that's part of coming to a university."
At Duquesne University, Joe DeCrosta, director of international programs, said its number of international students has been hovering around 450 but was about 500 before 9/11.
While he thinks there is still some backlash from world perception and policies, Mr. DeCosta said, "In the last year to year and a half, we're seeing a large influx of Saudi Arabian students interested in coming back because the visa process has opened up."
Titi Adewale, director of international programs and services at Robert Morris University, said her school has 151 international students, a number which has plateaued although it had been steadily growing before 9/11.
She said visa requirements have eased somewhat for prospective students from some countries so she hopes enrollment will pick up.
In 2004, Robert Morris began making recruiting trips to India.
At Chatham College, the 50 international students account for 8 percent of its undergraduates. Chatham had just 30 in 2000. It also has its first two graduate students -- both from India.
Michael Poll, Chatham vice president of admissions, said the college is doing more travel to recruit internationally and more international advertising and is improving its Web page to include translations.
It also has one counselor dedicated to international recruitment.
The Open Doors study also noted that American students are studying abroad in record numbers, 205,983 in 2005-06, an increase of 8 percent over the prior year, and there is growing interest in Asia and South America.
First Published November 13, 2006 12:00 am