Foreign grad enrollment up at U

The Graduate School’s foreign student enrollment has increased 2 percent this year.

Matthew Gruchow

The number of international graduate students attending the University has increased, despite worries of officials preparing for an enrollment slump.

The Graduate School enrolled 473 new foreign students this fall, a 2-percent increase from last year, said Andrea Scott, the Graduate School director.

“I was expecting something in the double-digit decreases, so I’m delighted,” Scott said. “That was sort of the national fear because of the competition and homeland security processes.”

Although international student enrollment increased, Graduate School applications from prospective international students decreased nearly 16 percent, from 5,363 to 4,486, she said.

Scott said the University Graduate School is analyzing the data to see what contributed to the increase. Questionnaires were sent to nonenrollees Tuesday to determine why they chose not to study at the University, she said.

University officials said they expected a decrease in international graduate students because of more invasive visa-clearance procedures and growing competition from foreign schools.

Official enrollment numbers for all international students at the University will be released at the end of October, said Kay Thomas, director of International Student and Scholar Services.

Initial reports show the University enrolled 669 new international graduate and undergraduate students this fall, down from 757 in 2003, she said.

“The (2004) numbers may change a bit once we have confirmed that these indeed reflect international students and not others such as immigrants,” Thomas said. “They probably won’t change too much, but we do review the query and check to make certain this is so.”

Jim Rowan, assistant director of the University’s admissions office, said international undergraduate enrollment numbers dipped to 173 from 205 in 2003.

“I don’t think there’s anything really surprising about the numbers,” he said.

International undergraduate applications increased slightly this year, he said.

It is too early to analyze the reasons for the enrollment decline, he said.

Nationwide concern

International student enrollment at universities and colleges nationwide has stagnated over the last few years.

International graduate applications went down by 28 percent in 2003-2004, according to a recent survey of 126 universities and colleges by the Council of Graduate Schools.

The biggest declines in applications and admissions came from China, India and Korea, according to the report.

Heath Brown, director of research and analysis at the Council of Graduate Schools, said U.S. visa policies and foreign competition will continue to concern universities.

“These issues are here to stay, and competition will only increase in the future,” Brown said. “These are issues that have immediate ramification but also long-term ramifications.”

Graduate schools are responding by streamlining admissions processes, while the government continues to improve entry and visa procedures, he said.

It’s too early to tell whether the trend in decreasing enrollment is over, Brown said, but signs are positive so far.

Scott said she would be more optimistic about enrollment trends at the University after two or three years of increases.

Meanwhile, the University will continue to battle negative perceptions about studying in the United States while trying to make international students feel welcome, Scott said.

“We will do whatever we can to ensure them that we want them to attend,” she said. “What is not going to go away is the competition.”