Incoming foreign students dropped 21 percent this fall

by Elizabeth Dunbar

The number of incoming international students declined this year, raising more questions about whether increased scrutiny delays or prevents students from arriving in the United States.

There are 830 new international students at the University this fall, compared to 1,010 one year ago.

Though last year’s numbers were higher than in other years, the decrease has led the Office of International Programs to work with the admissions offices and other college departments to figure out why the number is down.

“Our instincts right now say that many of the factors are beyond our control, but we don’t want to reach that conclusion without seeing if there’s something we can do,” said Wayne Sigler, undergraduate admissions director.

Sigler and Andrea Scott, graduate admissions director, both said the number of admitted students were down from 2001, but the drop in enrollment was larger than expected.

“It’s a 21 percent drop, which is not what we’d hoped for,” Scott said, explaining that 500 new graduate students enrolled this fall while 632 enrolled fall 2001.

Kay Thomas, International Student and Scholar Services director, said she thinks the decrease is related to problems students had obtaining their visas.

“We suspect it’s that the process of getting a visa has been extended,” she said.

After talking with people from other universities, Thomas said the lower enrollment of international students is not unique to the University.

Another possible reason for the decrease in international student enrollment is the increased scrutiny students receive if they are studying science or engineering.

“There seems to be a list of fields people are concerned about,” Thomas said. “I think if (students) are going to study one of those fields there’s a longer security process.”

Sulieman Nader, president of the Minnesota International Student Association, said he was disappointed to see the number of new international students decrease.

“It’s sad because I don’t think people are really aware of it,” he said.

Nader said he thinks American students can help the situation by thinking about the diversity international students bring to campus.

“I don’t think there is anything that international students can really do about it,” Nader said, who is from Jordan. “People really have to think about the impact international students have on campus. I think a lot of people take it for granted.”

Elizabeth Dunbar covers international affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]