Coleman seeks solution to decline in int’l students

Naomi Scott

After spending $600 on transportation and lodging, and waiting seven hours without food or water at the U.S. Embassy in London, University student Ali Dolbear said, she finally received her student visa.

“It sounds like you were auditioning for ‘Survivor,’ ” Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said Friday to the Carlson School of Management sophomore from England.

Coleman was on campus at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to discuss legislation he is proposing that would make it easier for international students to study in the United States.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of international students in the United States has declined, because visa restrictions have denied access to thousands of students, according to a memo from Coleman’s office. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are experiencing increases in international student enrollment, the memo said.

Impediments in the visa process have caused a 33 percent decline in the number of international students studying at the University since 2001, said Kay Thomas, International Student and Scholar Services director and a member of the six-person panel that spoke alongside Coleman.

Steven Crouch, dean of the University’s Institute of Technology, said that in the last two years, IT applications from international students have declined by 51 percent. The number of students who were admitted to the school and actually showed up declined by 55 percent, he said.

Coleman said he is concerned about the trend because foreign students bring a lot of culture and academic strength to the nation’s universities. Also, foreign students who pay full tuition help keep costs down for U.S. students, he said.

Coleman’s proposed legislation is called the American Competitiveness Through International Openness Now Act. It calls for change in the way visa applications are processed and how visas are issued. The legislation also attempts to improve communication among government agencies that deal with student visas.

Coleman said he hadn’t thought much about the issue until he was contacted by Humphrey Tusimiirwe, a University of St. Thomas student from Uganda.

Tusimiirwe, who was also on Friday’s panel, received a full scholarship to St. Thomas in 2003 but was twice denied a visa by two different people who handled his case at the U.S. Embassy in Uganda.

Tusimiirwe then got in touch with Coleman, who called the embassy. As a result, Tusimiirwe received his student visa and enrolled at St. Thomas, albeit a semester late.

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks, who introduced Coleman, said the decline is an important issue to address.

“I think it’s vitally important for Minnesota, the University of Minnesota and for the future of the world’s economy and quality of life,” Bruininks said.