Coleman to speak about international-student decline

Sen. Norm Coleman will speak at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Lacey Crisp

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., will be on campus this afternoon to discuss the decline in international students attending U.S. universities.

Coleman is proposing legislation called the American Competitiveness Through International Openness Now Act.

The legislation aims to change the way student visas are processed. It would allow more international students to come to the United States.

Coleman will be speaking at 2:30 p.m. at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Kay Thomas, International Student and Scholar Services director, said there has been a decrease in international students coming to the United States.

She said fall 2001 had the largest amount of international students, with 1,010 students studying at the University. Thomas said that number has decreased.

“Since 2001 we have had about 30 percent decrease in international students who study here,” Thomas said.

She said she is waiting to hear what Coleman proposes, but from what she has seen, it looks positive.

“It is very important for international students to come here for education purposes and to create a diversity of voices,” Thomas said.

Coleman said this is an issue for him because of the number of students who are denied access to the United States because of visa restrictions.

“From a foreign-policy perspective, this decline is troubling,” Coleman said. “In a world that too often hates Americans because they do not know us, international education represents an opportunity to break down barriers.”

Coleman said Minnesota is the 18th-most-popular state for international students, and the decline is worrisome for the colleges that host the students.

“International education is a $13 billion industry,” Coleman said. “Foreign students who pay full tuition help keep costs down for American students. In Minnesota alone, international students contribute some $175 million to our economy.”

Josh Straka, spokesman for Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said the congresswoman has been working on this issue for more than a year.

“This is an issue that the administration could fix tomorrow, if higher education were a priority,” Straka said.

He said McCollum has worked closely with the University to try to fix the problem.

“It has a major impact on our education system and on our economy,” Straka said. “We need to be helping with this critical issue.”