University officials are hopeful that the number of new international students will be up when enrollment statistics are released in September.
In 2001, the total number of incoming international students enrolled at the University was 1,001, but by 2004, the number had dropped to less than 700.
The drop at the University was in line with a national trend. According to the most recent data from the Institute of International Education, colleges and universities in the United States saw a 2.4 percent decrease in the number of incoming international students enrolled in 2003-04.
The decline was the first in 30 years, and occurred for a variety of reasons, said Allan Goodman, president and chief executive officer of the institute.
International students are starting to see a wider variety of educational opportunities at home, and there is also more competition for international students from other host countries, Goodman said.
Rising tuition costs and tighter visa screenings in the United States also played a role in the decline, he said.
But it’s important to keep international students at U.S. universities, Goodman said.
“International students in U.S. classrooms widen the perspectives of their U.S. classmates, contribute to vital research activities, (and) strengthen the local economies in which they live,” he said.
At the University, the numbers aren’t all negative. Although international undergraduate enrollments have been down since 2001, the number of foreign graduate students is starting to come up.
After a significant 11 percent decrease from 2002 to 2003, the number of incoming international graduate students rose 2 percent in 2004, said Andrea Scott, director of admissions for the University’s Graduate School.
“We’re very hopeful that this is an indication that the perception we are not welcoming has been reduced,” Scott said.
After Sept. 11, 2001, many international students might have had an incorrect perception that the United States did not welcome them, Scott said.
That idea could have helped other countries such as England, Australia and Canada become more competitive, she said.
Also, foreign countries such as China are funneling billions of dollars into improving their own education systems, which has led to more students staying in their home countries, Scott said.
But the University is taking steps to recruit international students with a new all-campus committee designed to highlight the school to prospective foreign students.
The University has participated in recruitment fairs in China and Chile and will attend one in October in Turkey.