U international student enrollment declining

The University enrolled 11 percent fewer international students this year and has seen enrollments decline since Sept. 11, 2001.

According to Andrea Scott, Graduate School admissions director, 460 international students enrolled for fall semester 2003, compared to 514 in 2002 and 628 in 2001.

Scott said the decrease is because of new visa restrictions and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

SEVIS is a computerized system that keeps data on foreign students and exchange visitors while they stay in the United States.

Statistics from the undergraduate admissions office show a similar trend. Two hundred five international students registered for classes in 2003, compared to 220 students in 2002. In 2001, the number of international students enrolling at the University was 297.

James Rowan, assistant director for the University’s undergraduate international admissions, said the decline in international student admission could be because of a number of reasons including international economic reasons, concern about international travels and problems obtaining visas. He said the decline in the number of international student admissions is too slight to be considered a trend.

Rowan said fewer international students at the University could harm the institution.

“Few international student means less international diversity on campus and fewer dollars to the University,” he said.

“We appreciate the diversity and world views that international students bring to the University,” he said. “We expect to see an increase in international admission in the future.”

He said his office will continue to watch, analyze and respond to international students’ needs.

Not a trend?

John Godfrey, assistant dean of international education for Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan, said the decreasing number of international students enrolling in universities is a trend – and it is hurting U.S. universities.

Godfrey said Michigan is experiencing the lowest increase in international student admission in 10 years.

He said because of the bureaucracy and security measures imposed on international students and visitors after Sept. 11, 2001, universities in Canada, Australia and Europe attract foreign students who could bring diversity to U.S. universities.

He said international students are becoming frustrated with the new visa restrictions, which include personal interviews and background and security checks.

“Barriers and inefficiency have brought more frustration to these students,” Godfrey said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, many international students, especially those from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt have had to comply with visa regulations to come to the United States and to maintain their student statuses. Recently, the State Department expanded the list of countries subjected to the new visa registration beyond those that are “sponsoring or supporting terrorism,” bringing to 26 the total number of countries facing visa restriction.

Kay Thomas, director of the International Student and Scholar Service at the University, said her office used to assist international students who had difficulties getting visas, but since the new security measures took effect after Sept.11, 2001, the office’s influence has decreased.

Thomas said the international student service recently began information sessions for international students about SEVIS and issues relating to their visa status.

But her office can only help inform students of the restrictions. She said she realizes the importance of having international students on campus.

“(It’s) an important part of everyone’s education,” Thomas said. “Minnesotans can’t just talk to Minnesotans.”